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Refugee crisis challenges conscience of the West

(China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-07 07:39

The picture of the drowned three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi lying on a Turkish beach on Wednesday drew worldwide attention to the massive refugee crisis engulfing Europe and the ongoing turbulence in North Africa and West Asia.

The heartrending scene should never have happened. Yet his death is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the humanitarian crisis resulting from armed conflicts and social unrest in countries such as Syria, Libya and Iraq.

According to United Nations' estimates, to date more than 300,000 refugees and migrants have ventured across the Mediterranean into Europe this year, with some 2,500 people perishing on the way.

The rising number of refugee deaths and the frequent clashes between refugees and police in those countries that are at the forefront of the refugee influx, show European countries were totally unprepared for this crisis.

And already mired in the Greek debt crisis, European countries have been slow to show compassion, even as more and more refugees from the Middle East arrive on their doorsteps after risking their lives to voyage across the Mediterranean.

Some Europeans seem to have forgotten their humanitarian and human rights ideals; sealing their borders in disregard of the pleas of the refugees, or else quarreling with each another about whether to adopt "quotas" for the number of refugees they will accept.

After little Aylan's death, Germany and Austria have taken lead in accepting refugees stranded on the Hungarian border; a move that should temporarily ease the tensions. However, a long-term solution is still needed to address what is perceived as the biggest flow of refugees to Europe since World War II.

In the final analysis, the ongoing refugee crisis is the bitter fruit of the US-led West's interventionist policy in the Middle East.

According to Eurostat, the statistics office of the European Union, Syria was the source for the largest number of Europe-bound refugees in both 2013 and 2014. And in the first six months of this year, it continues to top the list.

The Middle East country has been mired in a full-blown civil war for nearly five years as a result of Western intervention.

Obviously, any solution to Europe's refugee crisis without dealing with its root cause will be inadequate. Western countries, the United States in particular, should shoulder their due responsibilities in both preventing the humanitarian disaster from worsening and restoring peace and stability in the Middle East.

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