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Arab refugees see double standards in Europe’s embrace of Ukrainians -Breaking


© Reuters. Internally displaced Syrians stand together in front of tents at Azaz camp, Syria on March 1, 2022. Picture taken March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Mahmoud Hassano

Hams Rabah and Hassan Hankir

SIDON/AMMAN, Lebanon (Reuters) – Syrian refugee Ahmad al-Hariri fled war-torn Syria 10 years ago and sought asylum in Lebanon. He spent the past decade trying unsuccessfully to find a better life in Europe.

The father of three cannot help but feel compelled to compare the fates of European countries as they open arms to thousands upon thousands of Ukrainians within a matter of weeks.

We are asking why Ukrainians were welcomed in every country while we, Syrian refugees are still living in tents, under the snow and facing death. No one seems to be looking at us.” He spoke to Reuters at a refugee center where 25 families have been sheltered near the Mediterranean city Sidon.

The Arab world is home to 12 million Syrian refugees. Critics range from Hariri and activists to cartoonists. They compare the West’s response to Ukraine’s refugee crisis with Europe’s 2015 attempt to keep Syrian refugees out.

Many people recall images of refugees walking long distances in severe weather or drowning in dangerous sea crossings while trying to break through Europe’s borders.

The European Union announced Monday that at least 400,000 people had fled Ukraine from the bloc, just four days following Russia’s attack.

Expect millions more, and the EU has begun to prepare measures to provide temporary residence permits and access to work and welfare. This would be a rapid opening that is in direct contradiction to its reaction to wars elsewhere and Syria.

In early 2021, 10 year after the outbreak of conflict in Syria, 1 million refugees and asylum seekers had been accepted by EU countries. Germany was responsible for more than half. They arrived prior to a 2016 agreement in which billions were paid by the EU for Turkey’s continued hosting of 3.7 million Syrians.

The welcome was immediate this time.

According to Kiril Petkov, the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, “We don’t have the refugee wave that we are used to” and described Ukrainians as highly educated, intelligent and qualified.

He said, “These are Europeans who have just had their airport bombed and are now under fire.” Bulgaria said that it would help all people coming from Ukraine (where there are approximately 250,000 ethnic Bulgarians).

In Bulgaria, 3,800 Syrians requested protection last year and 1,850 received humanitarian or refugee status. According to Syrians, most refugees are only allowed through Bulgaria in order to reach wealthier EU countries.

The government of Poland, which was heavily criticised by the international community for allowing a wave to cross from Belarus last year, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, now welcomes those fleeing from the Ukraine conflict.

Hungary has built a fence along its southern boundary to keep the Middle East and Asia from returning. This response was in response to the refugee arrivals from Ukraine.


Both Poland and Hungary claim that the refugees arriving from the Middle East have crossed borders with other countries who have an obligation to shelter them.

Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, defended these different methods. He stated that “I reject making comparisons between those fleeing conflict and those trying illegally to get in the country,” at a United Nations meeting held in Geneva.

It is home to large numbers of ethnic Hungarians, which has made the welcome easier.

These ties have led Western journalists to speculate that Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis is not like other crises such as those in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan because Europeans may be more familiar with the suffering of the victims.

Social media was flooded with condemnations of their comments, which led to accusations of bias against the West. These reports were popularized and widely criticised throughout the region.

One example is when a CBS television reporter said that Kyiv was a “relatively European, relatively civilised” city in contrast with other war zones. Some others claimed Ukraine was unique because the fleeing people were either middle-class or watched Netflix (NASDAQ :).

The CBS reporter Charlie D’Agata apologised, saying he had been trying to convey the scale of the conflict. CBS didn’t immediately reply to our request for more information.

Nadim Houry is the executive director at the Arab Reform Initiative. He said that parts of media coverage was disturbing. It revealed “ignorance over refugees from other countries who have the same aspirations and as Ukrainians.”


Houry, along with other critics, also claim that some governments have double standards when it comes to the question of volunteer soldiers who wish to take part in fighting against Russian forces in Ukraine.

On Sunday, Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign minister, supported President Volodymyrzey’s call for the participation of people in an international force against Russian troops. “Absolutely. “If people wish to support that battle, I would support their doing so,” she said on BBC television.

However, eight years ago, British police advised Britons who traveled to Syria to support President Bashar Al-Assad that they might be detained upon their return. They said they were a security threat to the UK.

An immediate response was not received from the foreign ministry to questions about Truss’s remarks. Ben Wallace, Defence Minister, stated that it was different for fighters who joined groups such Islamic State as Syria but said the government would discourage anyone from travelling to Ukraine.

Although they feel abandoned, the Ukrainians’ welcoming in eastern Europe has heightened their feelings. However, many of them in Jordan, Lebanon, and north Syria told Reuters that their fate was in the hands of authorities close to their home.

Some believe Arab countries ought to have supported the military effort against Assad more. It arose out of popular protests in 2011 against the president and should have provided more assistance for refugees. Arab countries, except for Syria’s neighbors Jordan and Lebanon have only taken in a small number of war-displaced persons.

Ali Khlaif said, living in Azaz, a tent camp located near northwestern Syria, “We don’t blame European countries. We blame Arab countries.” “European countries are open to those who come from their own people. Our Arab brothers are to blame, but not all of us.