When I asked immigration experts this week which country is the shining example of how to handle asylum-seekers—where, in other words, the United States could look for best practices—some said Canada, others Sweden. But I didn’t hear many unequivocal endorsements.
Absorbing asylum-seekers has been a challenge ever since the United Nations developed a convention on refugees in 1951. But, according to FitzGerald, “it hasn’t been as big of a challenge in the countries that dominate the world until more recently”—a period in which more people are displaced than at any time since the wake of World War II.
There’s long been a “grand bargain … between the rich countries of the Global North and the poorer countries of the Global South,” FitzGerald explained: “The Global North pays for refugees to be housed in other countries in the Global South and in return takes a symbolic number of them through refugee-resettlement programs.” But lately that bargain has broken down as a substantial number of asylum-seekers have gotten past the “obstacle course that’s deliberately been put in their way” and requested refuge on the territory of wealthy countries. “People are trying to reach Europe, trying to reach Australia, trying to reach North America,” he observed. And nobody in Europe and Australia and North America has quite figured out how to respond.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org