What to do with Muslim Refugees?

 

Rohingya Refugees

Nicholas Kristof has a heart-rending column in the New York Times about the plight of refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma). Rohingya Muslims are being persecuted by their government and rounded up into concentration camps. Thousands are fleeing by sea, but no government — including ours — is willing to take them in. Often, refugees are sent back to Myanmar to almost certain death. This week, even the Muslim country of Indonesia ordered two vessels carrying hundreds of Rohingya pushed back to sea.

The story is much the same in the Mediterranean as refugees from Libya and Syria desperately try to escape the fighting that is destroying their countries.

Refugees are rarely welcomed even in the best of circumstances and Muslims have made themselves especially unpopular.  What can and should be done for these people? What, if anything, should the United States do?

[Photo from Getty Images]

There are 36 comments.

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  1. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Let them all in the US,give them full citizenship, full welfare, and a democrat voting card. Let us keep them on par with Central America in the quest for national suicide in the US.

    • #1
  2. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    There’s no good answer to the problem.

    • #2
  3. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    I don’t know if this is still true, but a year ago I went to a talk from a Burmese Muslim and a guy who works on the issue that noted the fact that Burma was a AQ primary recruiting tool, mentioned more often than anywhere else except Syria. AQ affiliates sent aid to the Rohingya. The Burmese Muslims desperately tried to avoid receiving aid. A poor community, they spent some serious money by their standards trying to persuade Muslims not to help them, and in particular not to help AQ help them, because they thought that it would lead to massive persecution and bloodshed. The thought of starving and spending what money you have on stopping people sending you food seemed desperately sad to me.

    • #3
  4. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Hold hands and sing “We Are The World;” only if I get to sing Michael Jackson’s lines.

    • #4
  5. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Well they’re dying in SE Asia – because they’re being turned back to sea by Muslim majority countries like Malaysia and Indonesia – so it’s not immediately your problem.  Whether it will destabilise ASEAN or not remains to be seen.

    • #5
  6. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    As DocJay says, there is no good answer. “Good” in this context being a happy ending with minimal or no pain or sorrow suffered by anyone.

    There are effective answers, but not necessarily things we would want to do or have done. Massive refugee populations are indistinguishable from massive migrations (with the sole distinction that refugees may believe they would return if conditions are improved).

    It creates substantial cultural disruption for some period. It creates economic dislocation whether in a free market or a command economy. In sum, there is an amount of refugees that exceeds the reasonable capacity of people to absorb with minimal consequence.

    Unless you sum both refugees and migrants you underestimate the burden for a given number of refugees. In fact, because of the cumulative effect, the impact of the last arriving refugee is far greater than the first refugee/migrant.

    This argues for quotas which in turn invokes rationing. In a free market, the positions would be allocated on the basis of price — either paid for by the refugee or a sponsor. In a command economy, the position would be allocated on the basis of the preferences of the ruling class.

    Either way, many (most?) refugees will be refused and consigned to a fate of which we would prefer to be ignorant. And we can be very grateful if we are not faced with the life limiting problems that face refugees.

    • #6
  7. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:Well they’re dying in SE Asia – because they’re being turned back to sea by Muslim majority countries like Malaysia and Indonesia – so it’s not immediately your problem. Whether it will destabilise ASEAN or not remains to be seen.

    Fwiw, I think of AQ recruitment as being a problem for us; although ISIS are sucking up the bulk of the money right now, AQ appears much better at managing attacks on Americans. The ISIS dudes who, equipped with a fairly impressive armory, managed to achieve a kill list of a single dude’s ankle, don’t compare favorably with the Tsarnaev brothers.

    If we want to win the hearts and minds battle in Pakistan, India, and other foci for anti-Burmese fundraising, having a moderately humane Burmese policy would probably be helpful. I’m not sure what that would look like, but it’s not completely trivial or completely selfless.

    • #7
  8. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    If we want to win the hearts and minds battle in Pakistan, India, and other foci for anti-Burmese fundraising, having a moderately humane Burmese policy would probably be helpful. I’m not sure what that would look like, but it’s not completely trivial or completely selfless.

    Okay yes, this is so.  But what that policy looks like is important.

    Right now the US is issuing statement of concern, which along with two dollars will get the Rohingyas a cup of coffee.

    An ineffectual response is worse, imho, than no response at all.

    • #8
  9. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    James Of England:

    If we want to win the hearts and minds battle in Pakistan, India, and other foci for anti-Burmese fundraising, having a moderately humane Burmese policy would probably be helpful. I’m not sure what that would look like, but it’s not completely trivial or completely selfless.

    Okay yes, this is so. But what that policy looks like is important.

    Right now the US is issuing statement of concern, which along with two dollars will get the Rohingyas a cup of coffee.

    An ineffectual response is worse, imho, than no response at all.

    I think it’s important that statements of concern are issued. If you read Hard Choices, Burma is Clinton’s single big success in her narrative. She may become President soon, and for the next year will be one of the chief faces of America again, which will result in many people hearing her story. America can’t have that be the case and be silent about Burma when this happens. American desire to believe in Buddhist goodness means that Aung San Suu Kyi gets a lot of positive press, and the Buddhist overlords freeing the Buddhist opposition is a big deal, but it’s important that America is clear that the victims of Buddhists also matter.

    • #9
  10. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    I don’t disagree with your basic stance, but a statement of concern by itself is just not enough – certainly it is not very convincing.

    What substantive position should the US take?

    The thing is, the Rohingya do not per se neatly fit into the ‘War on Islam narrative’ – though my feeling is that Burmese chauvinism was emboldened to act by that – what’s happening with them is of a piece with the in/out clean/unclean cultural nationalism that is a part of Indic civilisation (so similar to what happened in Sri Lanka, and perhaps to a degree what’s happening in India and even Thailand).

    • #10
  11. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:I don’t disagree with your basic stance, but a statement of concern by itself is just not enough – certainly it is not very convincing.

    What substantive position should the US take?

    My preference would be for statements of concern and the public tying of aid to religious freedom. I’ve seen State Department officials talk about that, and I get the impression that that’s the public stance, but I agree that they could stand to be louder about it. I’m not sure there’s anything else I’d do.

    • #11
  12. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    Today they’re refugees.  In 15 years, they’re Muslim immigrants sucking up social capital and agitating for Sharia.

    • #12
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Randy Webster:Today they’re refugees. In 15 years, they’re Muslim immigrants sucking up social capital and agitating for Sharia.

    Do you get the impression that Asians are over represented on the welfare rolls? I don’t think that Burmese Islam has a strong tradition of overbearing Sharia, either (the oppression they’re receiving now is not new).

    • #13
  14. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    I was actually thinking more about the situation in the Med.

    • #14
  15. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Zafar:Well they’re dying in SE Asia – because they’re being turned back to sea by Muslim majority countries like Malaysia and Indonesia – so it’s not immediately your problem. Whether it will destabilise ASEAN or not remains to be seen.

    Basically agree. Why/how is this our problem?

    • #15
  16. Mario the Gator Inactive
    Mario the Gator
    @Pelayo

    If we are going to worry about the Muslims in Burma, can we also find a solution for all the Christians in Iraq, Syria and Egypt who have been either killed or forced to flee?

    • #16
  17. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    I think if we are actually committed to helping these poor souls then, we should ask what it would take to get Indonesia and Malaysia to start taking some of these people in. If their fears simply amount to budgetary concerns money is not the hardest thing to raise. That would provide some immediate relief, but clearly pressure needs to be brought on the Burmese government. To that end I am not sure what kind of leverage we really have over them. Perhaps their neighbors have more, in which case again it would behoove us to ask what it would take for them to exert such pressure.

    • #17
  18. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    I’d wish we’d see them as human first rather than “Muslim” or “foreign.”

    Leaving them to die because they might vote for the wrong party or they might inconvenience someone else strikes me as inhumane.

    The government doesn’t need to give them aid, but I hope we wouldn’t stop them from saving themselves. And let anyone who might want to help them do so by not turning them away if they can get here.

    • #18
  19. user_142044 Thatcher
    user_142044
    @AmericanAbroad

    Thailand has offered to hold a conference on the Rohingya issue later this month.  Until then, the policy of all southeast Asian states, except Burma, is to replenish Rohingya boats with fuel, food, and water and then send them back out to sea.

    Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand all worry that if they accept these refugees that thousands more will come.  Similarly, if only one of these states lets them land, then the other two will have enough cover to close their borders altogether leaving one state stuck with a massive refugee issue.

    I would like to see the United States mount a serious behind-the-scenes effort to convince Malaysia and Indonesia to accept large numbers of Rohingya with funds from the Gulf.  I think the US has enough leverage to make that happen.

    One of the major complications here is that maybe only half of these refugees are actually Rohingya from Burma.  Quite a few are Bangladeshi citizens who have sold everything to human traffickers to get them to Malaysia.

    • #19
  20. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    The question should be “what to do with refugees?”, whether they are Muslim or not. That is likely to be a growing issue with the fast growth of populations in Africa and central Asia.

    • #20
  21. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Jimmy Carter:Hold hands and sing “We Are The World;” only if I get to sing Michael Jackson’s lines.

    And I get to sing Tina Turner’s.

    • #21
  22. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    Marion Evans:The question should be “what to do with refugees?”, whether they are Muslim or not. That is likely to be a growing issue with the fast growth of populations in Africa and central Asia.

    That is the question to which there is no good answer.  Western countries can’t just let them in, nor can they just go back to their countries in most cases.  We just need to remember to be grateful that we aren’t in that kind of impossible situation.  It is simply heartbreaking to see these peoples’ plights.

    One thing we can start with is destroying ISIS and helping Iraq and Syria become more stable, so at least those refugees can consider moving back to their homelands.

    • #22
  23. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Send ’em back!!

    • #23
  24. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Mike H:I’d wish we’d see them as human first rather than “Muslim” or “foreign.”

    Leaving them to die because they might vote for the wrong party or they might inconvenience someone else strikes me as inhumane.

    The government doesn’t need to give them aid, but I hope we wouldn’t stop them from saving themselves. And let anyone who might want to help them do so by not turning them away if they can get here.

    I agree that it would be helpful to see their humanity, and that it’s easy to overstate their religion as an issue; it’s not like Indochinese Islam has been particularly terrible.

    I hope you can see that it’s also important to see them as foreigners, though. If they were American, our policy should clearly be different. If Indonesia were turning boatloads of Americans away with some fuel and food, but not enough support that they were particularly safe, I’d hope to see a carrier group turning up in Jakarta before too long.

    If they came to America and America let them in then, yes, America would have to provide them with aid. Helping them get set up would more than pay for itself, since leaving them totally without support would virtually guarantee that they became a criminal gang, and one that was essentially impossible to deport, such that we’d then be paying for their food, healthcare, education, and the other costs of jail.

    • #24
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Robert McReynolds:Send ‘em back!!

    I’m not sure I follow. The US should encourage Indonesia to send them back?

    • #25
  26. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Solon JFlei:

    One thing we can start with is destroying ISIS and helping Iraq and Syria become more stable, so at least those refugees can consider moving back to their homelands.

    The Rohingya are from Burma.

    A stable Iraq and a stable Syria are absolute goods in their own right, but I don’t think that will do the Rohingya any good.

    They will help resolve issues around the Mediterranean – which just illustrates that all problems are not due to the same cause, even if they have the same label.

    Imho the Rohingya issue stems from one basic ideological problem which is somewhat fascist in its inclination: linking “religion & ethnicity” to “nationality, citizenship and civil & political rights”.

    I think James is right that the US might respond by linking aid to resolving an issue, but I hope that it’s the correct issue (or the causative issue) – which would give the US a consistent way to approach similar problems in multi-ethnic and multi-religious states. (Basically most of South East Asia, to start with, most of South Asia, and the list goes on….)

    • #26
  27. Freesmith Inactive
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    History suggests it’s best to keep the Goths on the other side of the river.

    Also, census data shows that the percentage of foreign-born residents in the U.S. is at an all-time high today, higher even than during the great waves of migrants during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Which raises an interesting question for those who believe in assimilation:

    Assimilation to what?

    • #27
  28. Freesmith Inactive
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    Which person in the photograph is one of Lawrence Kudlow’s “brainiacs?”

    • #28
  29. Freesmith Inactive
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    A recent article in the N Y Times argued that the U.S. should bring in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, half of whom would be Christian, and settle them in Detroit to re-vitalize that bankrupt city and infuse its current population with “immigrant energy.”

    Many people found the idea ridiculous.

    But I could go along with it – if it was done as a one-for-one even exchange of the current residents of Detroit.

    • #29
  30. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    James Of England:

    Robert McReynolds:Send ‘em back!!

    I’m not sure I follow. The US should encourage Indonesia to send them back?

    I was just going off of the title of the piece and not the details.  In general, places such as Italy, should stop taking them in.  That is what I was going on.

    • #30

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