News Tip: In Refugee Crisis, ‘Moral Responsibility is Undeniable,’ says Duke Expert

As tens of thousands of refugees continue streaming into Europe, Duke expert calls for the U.S. and European nations to do more.

Some 20,000 refugees poured into Germany over the weekend, continuing a European crisis that shows no sign of stopping. •    Quotes:“The images over the past month make it hard to deny the historical parallels this refugee emergency has to the humanitarian crisis of World War II,” says Suzanne Shanahan, who directs the Kenan Refugee Resettlement Project at Duke University. “Now as then, the question of moral responsibility is undeniable. The hope is that the international response will, in this instance, be far less equivocal.”“To label those fleeing civil unrest in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Syria ‘migrants’ is cynical rhetoric that both criminalizes their behavior and denies the protections they are owed in international law. Those fleeing civil war and persecution are not migrants illegally crossing borders, but refugees with defined rights -- recognized by most of the world’s nations -- to seek protection from suffering and oppression. Fatalities at sea and on land during these perilous journeys are not then the unfortunate, but predictable consequence of illegal acts. They are, instead, evidence of an international failure to uphold our own deepest values and legal commitments.”“Resettling refugees is a challenge for both refugees and receiving countries. However, both Europe and the United States can draw on 80 years of resettlement experience. In North Carolina, I have found that with proper community support, refugees are often able to quickly and successfully rebuild their lives as economically self-sufficient, politically engaged American citizens.”“Germany and Sweden are now expected to resettle refugees amounting to 1 percent of their total population. Surely, then, the U.S. can take in at least 65,000 Syrians -- a mere two-tenths of a percent of our total population.”“Managing the flow of refugees across the Mediterranean is a Herculean task. Thousands of new refugees arrive daily. But the challenge cannot be left to those countries least able to manage it. Coordinated international efforts are essential. The moral and legal responsibility is a shared one.”•    Bio:Suzanne Shanahan is co-director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics and director of the Kenan Refugee Project at Duke University. Launched in 2010, the community-based research project works with Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Egypt and Jordan as well as helping refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Bhutan and Vietnam settle in North Carolina. Shanahan also works closely with a network of migrant and refugee-led NGOs in Dublin, Ireland.•    For additional comment, contact Shanahan