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Unequal Mercy: The West’s Approach to Refugees

Helen Benedict

Almost anyone would agree that war is horrifying and peaceful countries should do their best to help its victims. The widespread eagerness to welcome fleeing Ukrainians after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded their country last February is a heartening example of such aid. But behind that altruism lies an ugly truth: most of the countries embracing Ukrainians are simultaneously persecuting equally desperate refugees from elsewhere.  Such unequal mercy would be no surprise from nations like Ukraine’s neighbors Hungary and Poland, controlled by nationalist parties that have rarely welcomed anyone not white and Christian. However, the same thing is happening in Western Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, and here in the United States... I know a lot of refugees there who have found no such generosity. Most are Syrian, Afghan, or Iraqi, but some are Kurdish or Palestinian, while others come from African countries, including Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and the Republic of Congo... They are routinely turned away from hospitals, doctors, or dentists, and are all too often treated with disrespect, even hatred, by landlords, employers, and regular citizens... Turkey can legally send refugees back to the nations they fled, no matter what dangers await them there... None of these policies apply to Ukrainians.