When The Interpreter first launched, our editors used to joke that the aim of this column was to supply ‘good solutions to dumb questions.’
That by no means turned an official tagline. However I truly nonetheless stand by the fundamental idea: Usually, one of the best ways to resolve what to write down about is to search for questions that appear type of apparent, however whose extensively accepted solutions don’t inform the entire story.
It could really feel a little bit foolish to ask these questions — in spite of everything, it looks like there’s already an apparent reply! — nevertheless it usually seems that if I look a little bit deeper, one thing attention-grabbing and informative will be discovered lurking past the standard knowledge.
That’s the method that led to this week’s column, which started with a query from a Occasions editor: Why is Poland keen to be so terribly beneficiant to Ukrainian refugees, who’re arriving in enormous numbers and placing a major pressure on the nation’s assets, despite the fact that Poland’s right-wing authorities has been extremely hostile to far smaller groups of refugees prior to now?
The apparent reply, in fact, is that it’s about race and faith. And that reply will not be flawed: Id does matter right here. Previous refugee arrivals have tended to be Center Jap Muslims, and Poland’s right-wing politicians have spent years whipping up hostility towards them by claiming that Muslim immigrants would threaten Polish id and tradition. Ukrainians, who are usually white and Christian, don’t match the profile that these politicians have taught the general public to concern.
However prejudice and racial id aren’t the entire story right here. And specializing in them alone dangers obscuring an much more highly effective power at play — one with implications for different refugee crises world wide.
“The perceived menace is shared”
The extra important think about Poland’s welcoming perspective towards refugees, specialists say, is that serving to them seems like serving to Ukraine’s wrestle towards Putin. And for a lot of in Poland, that seems like self-defense.
“The decisive issue, I feel, is notion of a standard menace that’s coming from Russia,” mentioned Olena Yermakova, a Ph.D. scholar at Jagiellonian College in Poland who’s a researcher with the Fatigue Project on Jap and Central European politics. “I’ve Polish associates saying that they really feel if not for NATO, if not for us being fortunate with Yeltsin and Walesa within the 90s, this may have been us. And it would nonetheless be us. So the perceived menace is shared, which is, I feel, why individuals really feel so strongly about it, and why there’s a lot solidarity that’s happening.”
“Every thing is outlined by tales and acquainted frames that folks can relate to,” she mentioned. “And the narrative now about Ukrainians is that they’re freedom fighters towards Russia, which could be very a lot a class that Poles can relate to.”
An identical sample is taking part in out throughout Europe, mentioned Lamis Abdelaaty, a political scientist at Syracuse College who research political responses to refugees. “Varied European international locations have supplied army help to Ukraine, however they’ve additionally drawn the road at sending troops or imposing a no-fly zone,” she mentioned. “Given this set of limitations, welcoming Ukrainian refugees permits European international locations to essentially sign which facet of the battle that they’re on.”
And internet hosting refugees can truly impact the battle they’re fleeing. “Members of the diaspora can help the combat again dwelling, by sending cash or sending provides,” she mentioned. “And welcoming refugees can principally sign that people are voting with their ft. It could discredit the federal government that’s forcing them to flee.”
Political help can shift, although
However historical past means that this type of help will be fragile and non permanent. If Ukrainians’ interval of want exceeds their interval of foreign-policy relevance, they might be left weak.
“If these international locations wind up internet hosting massive numbers of Ukrainian refugees for a prolonged time period, we don’t know whether or not their welcome might cool,” Dr. Abdelaaty mentioned.
“We’ve definitely seen an analogous dynamic in Turkey with Syrian refugees, the place Turkey was initially very welcoming of Syrians, after which steadily realized that they had been going to be there for the lengthy haul and tempered its response,” she mentioned.
An identical sample performed out in the USA round Cuban refugees, mentioned Stephanie R. Schwartz, a political scientist on the College of Southern California who research compelled migration.
Russia-Ukraine Struggle: Key Developments
“Throughout heightened anti-Communist eras of the Chilly Struggle, we see the U.S. was actually welcoming to Cuban refugees as a result of these had been individuals coming from a ‘rival’ authorities, and we wished to border Castro and his regime as being horrible,” she mentioned. “However by the point that Clinton is in workplace, that specter is falling away, and the Berlin Wall has fallen. The U.S. modifications our tune on Cuba as nicely, and turns into a lot much less welcoming.”
That will turn out to be an issue for Ukrainians sooner or later. However it’s already an issue for refugees fleeing different international locations whose persecution feels much less politically related. They’re met with a far much less welcoming response in Poland and different European international locations than Ukrainians are — despite the fact that many may very well have stronger claims to safety below worldwide refugee legislation.
The query for the long run, then, is which response will turn out to be the usual: the welcome and help that has greeted Ukrainians, or the hostility towards refugees from elsewhere.
“The very welcoming response to Ukrainians is great to watch,” Dr. Abdelaaty mentioned. “My hope is that this kind of response shall be carried over to different refugee teams who’re fleeing very related conditions and who’re equally worthy of our compassion and our help.”
“Hopefully, this second will actually lead individuals to critically mirror on why it’s that they assume some persons are worthy of safety, and others aren’t.”