Syrian Refugees in Eastern Europe: Why Were Doors Closed?
By Kathryn Chaney
The Syrian refugee crisis has presented itself as a controversial topic since the Islamic State began terrorizing Syria last year. A central point of debate revolves around criticism of Eastern European countries who closed their borders to the enormous influx of refugees knocking on their doors. Why were these doors closed? Most speculations cite the national policies of Eastern European nations. However, for nations like Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria, the answer may center more on the concept of security on a national level as well as the safety of potential incoming refugees themselves.
From a national security standpoint, recent statistics display the challenges of a massive refugee influx for all nations. The Telegraph reported on February 26 that Germany admitted to losing track of approximately 130,000 of the admitted refugees. As a result, fear of terrorism and crime is climbing across the country, and Angela Merkel herself expressed a loss of control over the refugee situation. Moreover, Germany is not the only nation in which the program is losing track.
The American Mirror reports that the United States has not successfully tracked the Syrian refugees admitted in 2015 that settled in Louisiana. Germany and the United States are both economic and political role models for the international community. Consequently, for nations like Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria, who are in reality still recovering from World War II and their time as members of the Soviet Bloc, a loss of control in such an area would be detrimental. More importantly, the social and cultural environment within these nations does not lend itself to a secure environment for many Muslim refugees.
According to the annual Human Rights Reports published by the United States’ Department of State on Hungary, Slovakia and Austria, all three nations have a history of discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities, including Muslims. The Executive Summary of Austria’s 2014 Human Rights Report specifically mentions Muslims as a target for ethnic discrimination.
Additionally, these nations have specific instances that display how the inner-turmoil of their societies could be unwelcoming and even dangerous to incoming refugees from a Muslim nation. For example, in the fall of 2015, there was talk of erecting a statue commemorating the World War II pro-German government minister Bálint Homan. Furthermore, sectors of Neo-Nazi groups are known to operate within all three of the identified nations, according to the International Business Times.
With all factors under consideration, perhaps the governments of Eastern European nations like Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria made a responsible decision when they closed their borders to Syrian Refugees.
Politico conveyed that when Slovakia’s chief diplomat, Miroslav Lajcak, was questioned on why Slovakia closed its doors to refugees, he commented, “You cannot turn into a multi-cultural society overnight.”
The primary goal of a national government is to ensure the security of the population within its borders. If taking in refugees damages the government’s ability to fulfill this responsibility for its citizens and the potential refugees, that government must consider its options accordingly.