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Local Take: How should the world cope with the refugee crisis?

Hundreds of thousands of hungry and homeless refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern and African nations are pushing into the European Union (EU), finding some nations welcoming and others, such as Hungary, meeting them with pepper spray, bureaucratic mazes and hastily-constructed walls.

No one, it seems, saw the wave of asylum-seekers coming, despite the destabilizing forces of drought, the Arab Spring revolutions, Islamic State terrorism and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars involving the U.S.

The chaotic and painful migration has raised huge issues in the EU about one nation’s duty to another, when that troubled country is coming unglued. The flow of refugees is generally up through Turkey, then up through the former Yugoslavian states to prosperous Austria and Germany, who have been the most welcoming EU nations, by far. Germany says it will take 800,000 this year and a million next year.

The United Kingdom has taken scant few refugees (it now says it will take 4,000 a year) and says it prefers to work on stabilizing the Middle East, the major source of the chaos. The U.S. announced Thursday it will take 10,000 refugees in the coming year. Resistant nations, such as Hungary and Britain are being much criticized on the global stage, especially since photos of a Syrian toddler, laying drowned and face down on a Turkish beach, went viral Sept. 5 and crystallized world attention and sympathy. This iconic image contrasted sharply with videos of Germans with balloons and food welcoming refugees at train stations.

We asked Ashlanders: Should EU nations open their doors in this time of international refugee crisis, or let Mideast nations find their way to stability? And should the United States join in welcoming refugees from Arab, African and west Asian countries?

James Dills — The EU needs to ensure safe passage for the refugees, as long as they are willing to go through the steps to integrate into a new country and society. They should have the opportunity. ... There are times in history when problems arise, such as famine, war and natural disaster, and people are required to find new places to live. I think it’s the neighborly thing to do to welcome them. A lot of problems are behind this, like human greed, corruption, power hunger among leadership and it’s the most vulnerable people who get the brunt of the problems. (This paragraph has been edited to remove a misquote regarding how "the far right" has to realize "there are times in history ...." Dills said everyone needs to realize this.)

Bobbi Stapenhorst — All EU nations should set a quota on what they can accommodate. These are desperate people with no homes or food and only the clothes on their backs and their children on their shoulders. Hungary has put itself in a bad light, pushing people into camps before they have trains or buses. These people are oppressed and only want to pass through their country. Hungary is being resistant and putting up barriers. Refugees need a place to be before they move on. The U.S. is much more difficult to get into. We may soon face the same situation.

Lara Emmanuelli — All the Mideast is America’s problem. We started the instability when we took out Saddam Hussein and undermined Palestine. It’s an American issue. I’m extremely liberal. It’s the U.S. trying to overthrow (the Syrian leadership). The U.S. should have thought about the quantity of people who would be dislodged by all this before we did it.

Lori Creevay — I literally screamed and threw things when I heard on NPR that Hungary was putting refugees into camps before they get on trains. They didn’t even want to stay in Hungary. Germany said they would take them. The US has only taken a very small number. We should do more for people applying for asylum. On NPR, here was someone, as American who paid $6,000 in fees for relatives to apply for asylum and they were blocked at every turn. Finally, they were denied asylum. Meanwhile, the refugee’s house was bombed and his daughter died waiting for medical attention.

Zack Burrows (declined photo) — The EU has an obligation to their fellow human beings when there’s a refugee crisis. These countries need to step up to the plate and do good. The U.S. has always been good about this, also Germany. We should give safe refuge. If they want to go back home, they can do it when their country is in order. The EU has a lot of social safety nets and that’s why they’re desirable to refugees. The U.S. has taken some from Somalia and Sudan. We need to screen for terrorists, of course, but we should pitch in. We need to remember, this is our fault. It was stupid of Obama to withdraw our troops from Iraq before it was time. The whole thing blew up in everyone’s face.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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