One of the many things that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, didn’t anticipate when he launched the “special military operation” on Ukraine was the international resolve.
After all, for years, the international community has portrayed itself as unwilling or unable to regularly come to the rescue of the innocent individuals fleeing violence and displacements, from the blood-curdling genocide against Uyghurs in China or the horrific civil conflicts in Yemen and Syria.
But, Putin stumbled into one concept that the world leaders appear eager to fight for: State Sovereignty.
The Double Standards for Refugees
One month since the Russian invasion, Europe is already witnessing the largest refugee crisis since World War 2. Over ten million Ukrainians have fled their homes, 6.5 million have been internally displaced, and about 3.9 million have escaped to other neighboring countries.
However, in an unprecedented showing of solidarity, the European governments opened borders for the refugee mass, and the European citizens opened their homes.
But turning the spotlight away from Ukraine, Greek coastguards continue to illegally push back shelter-seekers from Turkey while the Spanish security forces forcefully repel refugees crossing Melilla fences.
With Europe’s history of harsh refugee rules, it’s wishful thinking to believe that the warm welcome extended to the Ukrainian refugees will be extended to other asylum applicants as well.
The EU’s support for displaced Ukrainians exemplifies how heavily political– and frequently discriminatory– is the refugee protection across the globe.
This painful picture highlights the double standards in the EU’s approach toward refugees in different regions.
Ukraine War: The Unprecedented Solidarity
The international community has been quick to react forcefully against Russia’s invasion. The United States and its allies took steps to shut Russia out of the international financial system and freeze key assets abroad.
European nations, especially Finland, which kept their alliance neutrality for decades, blocked its airspace to Russian traffic and rushed to send deadly and non-lethal aid to Ukraine.
Germany announced a significant boost in defense investment, while NATO rushed to relocate soldiers in Eastern Europe, as a sign of both support for Ukraine and a warning in the improbable case that Putin is tempted to continue west.
Despite the American right’s rising authoritarianism, supermajorities of Americans disapproved of Russia’s activities, demonstrating that not every subject can be quickly split along party lines by the news propaganda machine.
The valor of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was offered evacuation by the US but chose to stay with his people in Kyiv, has undoubtedly contributed to the galvanization of Ukrainian resistance and worldwide solidarity. Putin will very certainly pay far more than he gains as a result of this ill-advised provocation, including perhaps losing his grip on power in Russia.
However, it is evident what motive drives this widespread opposition: nations’ right to be safe within their boundaries. While awful and horrific, what is occurring to the Ukrainian people today is not very different from what Syrians and Yemenis have been through in previous years or what is happening in Ethiopia. While foreign players are involved in these escalations, they are civil wars, and the foreign sponsors of various groups have no plans to occupy or acquire land permanently.
Ukraine War and the “United” World: A Reality Check
Undoubtedly, we are shocked and horrified at the cataclysmic destruction, human fatalities, and heart-wrenching news coming out of Ukraine. However, amidst the biggest crisis witnessed in Europe in a long time, it is hard not to notice the underlying double standard emerging from the way countries respond to the crisis.
Ukraine isn’t the first country to be invaded by foreign forces illegally. Even before, Russia had invaded a number of neighboring countries. As of now, Russian jets are flying over Syria.
For decades, the media commentators have constantly highlighted that Ukraine is different from all the war-wracked countries and is worthy of our sympathy.
Why? Because they are European? Civilized? Christians with blond hair and blue eyes?
Through every channel of reporting, the media constantly reminds the world that Ukrainians are not Arabs, Afghans, Syrians, or Africans.
When it comes to the case of Ukrainians, they have the right to bear arms and the right to fight for their country, and the media celebrates these defenses as defiant heroes standing against the invasion.
The hypocrisy of response even extends to the response of international media organizations. Since the war, Russia has been banned from SWIFT, and Russian assets are being frozen.
Furthermore, FIFA has also sanctioned all Russian teams from participating in the football or plastering anti-Putin slogans. Football players are openly speaking against the atrocities of Ukrainians.
On the contrary, when, Mesut Ozil was shunned for speaking out in support of the Uyghurs. In addition, Celtic Fans were also fined for waving the Palestinian flag.
The Urgent Need for Change
Even if there is a lengthy armed confrontation, Europe’s initial sympathy for Ukraine will not inevitably convert into long-term security. Furthermore, structural reforms are required to overcome current inequities across global asylum systems in areas such as access to healthcare and education, reception conditions, and the chances for refugees’ employment and integration.
Fighting misinformation, nationalism, and bigotry are critical to ensuring the refugee response’s long-term viability and beginning to fix the discriminatory approach to asylum.
Furthermore, any double standard affects the rule of law, spilling over from asylum into other policy areas — therefore, the world must reconsider how it treats all persons requesting refuge.