Monday, September 07, 2015

What do you think will be the outcome of the Syrian refugee crisis?

Over at my blog, I asked my readers what they thought about the Syrian refugee crisis. This is a week to ask people what they think of this, after all: Between photos of dead children and reports of Germans welcoming refugees by the trainload, the issue has been getting a lot of press this week.

If I was to make any predictions about where this would all end up, I would be willing to commit to the statement that, in coming decades, Syria is going to become one of those countries to which millions of people around the world--millions more, I should say--trace their ancestries. Given the unpleasantness of the Assad regime and the Islamic State and the devastations associated with civil war, there are going to be very good reasons for Syrians to want to leave their homeland for some time to come. They may be neighbours, like Turkey and Lebanon; they may be in the same hemisphere, like Germany or Sweden; they may be on the other side of the planet, even.

I would also be willing to commit to the argument that few of these refugees will return. They will have had very good reasons to leave Syria, and there is little reason to think conditions in their homeland will improve enough to attract more than a few people. One thing we have found from refugee displacements in the past two decades is that, unless displaced refugees return quickly, they will be displaced. Depopulation can be permanent, even when the fighting has stopped.

Beyond that, I'm reluctant to make any predictions. Do I think that the plight of Syrian refugees will improve significantly, perhaps on the model of what happened to the boat people of Indochina? Maybe. Do I think this might lead to lasting global changes, for good or for ill? I am skeptical.

What do you think the end results of all this will be?

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