In late 2015, a painful photo went viral worldwide. It showed the body of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi. He had drowned in the Mediterranean while his family tried to reach Greece. He was a small Syrian child of Kurdish descent. His little body, intact, as if he were sleeping, had been gently deposited by the waves on a Turkish beach. It was not yet decomposed. Strangely, the fish had not chewed on him.
The impact of the image lasted but little. The war in Syria is terrible. It has provoked five million refugees. Half of them are in Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of them are in Jordan and Lebanon. Many, like the Kurdi family, wanted to reach Europe and use it as a stepping stone on the road to Canada.
That’s understandable. Europe and Canada are wealthy, especially from the point of view of those who flee from gunfire and bombs. There are no permanent refugee camps. Laws and custom do not allow the creation of those hermetic, hopeless ghettos formed by dirty tents.
But the truth is that a substantial segment of European society does not want the refugees and refuses to accept the quota that Brussels has assigned to it, on orders from Germany. The refugees are many, they have different customs, speak different languages and practice a religion — Islam — that scares many people because, in the name of Allah and his prophet, Muhammad, some terrorists of Arab origin have perpetrated horrendous crimes in several European cities.
What to do? The flood of Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and other Maghreb exiles is causing the dismemberment of Europe and the emergence of large nationalist and xenophobic parties, such as the Freedom Party, which almost won the recent elections in Austria. Its platform was very simple. Its leader, Norbert Hofer, preached no to multiculturalism, no to the refugees, no to Islam, yes to Austrian nationalism and pan-Germanism.
France is not immune to the phenomenon of that migratory bomb. Every terrorist act carried out by the Islamists, and every Arab refugee who settles in that country generates a reaction of sympathy for Marine Le Pen’s National Front, which greatly resembles the Austrians’ Freedom Party. It is very likely that that political formation, which received 7 million votes in 2015, will win the next election in France.
I insist in asking, what to do? The first thing, of course, is to look after the war victims. There is a moral obligation to protect those who flee from slaughter or catastrophe. When we are in the presence of a shipwreck, the priority is tending to the survivors. Because we overlooked that principle, 6 million Jews, half a million gypsies and tens of thousands of homosexuals were exterminated by the Nazis in the 1940s.
The second step is to act in such a way that the saviors don’t kill themselves during their act of solidarity. How? Perhaps the European country with the best chance to alleviate the problem is France. With the economic help of the European Union, it would have to create a State-Refuge where the exiles could settle.
Where? The most propitious site is French Guiana, a scarcely populated colony, measuring 90,000 square kilometers, with barely 260,000 inhabitants, that lies between Brazil and Suriname. That State-Refuge, created and managed by France, would undoubtedly be generously financed by the major European economies, which would see in that site the way to solve one of their most pressing conflicts and a destination for the undesired migrants.
If the European Union, with the aid of NATO (or vice versa) broke up Yugoslavia and created and sustains Kosovo, why not think to give a collegiate solution to the problem of the refugees?
You say it’s much too difficult? Of course, just as difficult as the creation of the State of Israel, the admirable development of Hong Kong, or the arrival and settlement of 2 million refugees in Taiwan after the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang in 1948. No operation that size is simple.
And the French-Guianans? They are few. It is within the reach of European budgets to persuade them and give them an economic incentive. Many will understand that to specialize in giving new lives to the refugees is an honorable task, and I think that most of them would see a golden opportunity to prosper with the sources of work that would emerge in a brief period of time.
In any case, something needs to be done before European coexistence shatters. This is not the perfect solution, but for now it seems to me to be the less bad one.