Conflict and Migration: Europe’s skeleton in the closet.
Article by Katie Jackson
How would you feel having your dream career in the centre of your city, walking your dog in the scenic fields when you get back from work and appreciating the simple pleasures in a place that you love? How would you feel building a home with a partner, perhaps having children, and showing them the home, you have built? Now imagine, waking up one morning to find that the country you once called home, has been invaded. You hear explosions and the news is wild with false narratives. You are forced to move your happy life to another country, so you apply to migrate to the UK. You are in a hurry because if you don’t make it out, you risk losing what you love most, your family. The UK government does not even process your application. Sadly, this is true for many refugees in many countries.
Migration can occur because of career prospects, marriage, or education but in more sinister cases, war and climate crises. In this post, I will be exploring the difference between immigration acceptance in Europe in response to the Yemen conflict beginning in 2015 and the current Russia-Ukraine conflict but, most importantly, how the country you were born in affects your migratory success.
Ukrainian refugees have received a huge amount of news coverage and governments have been condemned in the media for not changing immigration policies fast enough. For example, the UK had only processed 50 visa applications out of 5535 that were submitted. Nevertheless, Yemen refugees would be lucky to gain such attention from the UK. More than a quarter of refugees who make it to Europe are denied. From World Data statistics, we can see that although the UK was very popular for Yemenis to apply for a visa, a lot of applications are not accepted or even processed. Most countries outside of Europe have a 100% acceptance rate whereas the majority of Europe does not. Poland accepted 5 Yemini visa applications in 2015, whereas they accepted 1,808,436 Ukrainians in the first week that the war broke out. This shows the harsh reality of contrasting responses from European countries and the unfair treatment of non-European refugees. But, how can this be and why is nothing being done about it?
There could be many different factors meaning that fewer Yemini visa applications are accepted than Ukrainians. However, I am going to focus on social factors which could influence how non-white migrants are treated. Media discourses and political influence can cause a difference in the way immigrants are received. The European media often creates a false narrative where there is such thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants, even when they may be migrating for the same reasons. Instead, of looking at why someone needs to migrate, the government and media look at who needs to migrate. This is because migrants are racialised and non-white immigrants are viewed as a threat to the west. For example, Poland has been praised in the media for welcoming the Ukraine refugees ‘like family’ but they are a country whose government is open about its rejection of non-white immigration. Media distortion is becoming more of an issue because social media expansion has added an extra layer of accessibility so false narratives are spread quickly. Freedom of movement is a human right, yet even when non-white immigrants are forced from their homes, the lack of urgency from Europe shows sociopathic traits such as the obvious disregard for others.
There has been a lot of media coverage concerning whether Europe will change its attitude toward immigration following the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Though, it also makes me wonder why we are still not helpful to those in Yemen, the country with the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet with 66% of the population needing humanitarian assistance. Is it simply because Yemen isn’t in Europe? Do we whitewash our morals that much? It is clear that migrants from outside Europe are not given the same opportunities as migrants inside Europe. The only difference is that they are from a different continents. We need to collectively discourage European governments from selecting which refugees are more worthy of our help. There is no excuse. All the excuses given are obvious scapegoats to meet their own ends. Let’s expose Europe’s skeleton in the closet and save those who desperately need us. Wouldn’t you want to be saved?