Good communication is based on the capability of the recipient to listen and comprehend the intention of the speaker and vice versa. However, communicating with people from different cultures can prove a challenging encounter. Despite the difficulty, the importance of cross-cultural communication cannot be ignored, particularly in a generation where migrants move across borders with disparate traditions and language seeking refuge.
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Governments are legally obligated to offer protection for refugees as mandated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the 1951 Protocol. The ongoing Syrian refugee crisis has seen mixed reactions from states concerning whether to receive fleers or not.
The crisis is also an illustration of the challenges that locals and refugees face with respect to cross-cultural communication. The following discourse examines the Syrian refugee catastrophe. The goal is to determine the scope of the intercultural and cross-cultural communication in helping Syrian migrants to seek asylum.
Comparison of how different governments are dealing with Syrian Refugees
The Syrian refugee impasse has been correctly termed as one of the most heinous humanitarian catastrophes after the Cold War. It is approximated that about 7.6 million are internally displaced and that more than 4 million people are fleeing to the neighbouring countries in search of shelter.
The extreme erosion of the political and socio-economic structures has intensified the number of refugees’ influx in the neighbouring states and international governments (The UNHCR 2013). The following is an analysis of how various states have welcomed the asylum seekers.
The Turkish government has been offering sanctuary for Syrian migrants since April 2011 through an open-door initiative. Back in 2011, the policy was meant to act as an interim plan to offer the displaced persons refuge as the conflict in Syria is resolved. However, it has been forced to readjust the purpose of the initiative following the deepening of the civil war.
Turkey has reconsidered its immigration laws and legislated bills to allow an inclusive and liberal migrant and asylum decree. Currently, the state offers Syrian migrants provisional protection status. Moreover, it encourages a nonrefoulement culture while at the same time welcoming Syrians who flee the war-torn country. However, although it maintains a charitable gesture to the migrants, the numbers are becoming hard to withstand (İçduygu 2015).
Currently, Jordan hosts about 630,000 Syrian migrants. The figure is expected to rise with the influx of Syrian fleers. Individuals who seek refuge in the state must first register with the UNHCR officials. The migrants have drastically altered the population. Most of the refugees have moved to urban centres such as Amman.
Their concentration in the towns makes them easily distinguishable from the locals. While Jordan is willing to accept more refugees, questions have been raised concerning whether the inhabitants will welcome the expatriates’ presence in towns where they seem to be fighting for resources, as well as opportunities (Martinez 2015).
Lebanon has welcomed the migrants. Currently, it hosts the second-highest number of about 1.1 million immigrants. Lebanon has utilised its treaties with Syria. Such treaties enable Syrians to get residency permits in the country. Therefore, this system bars refugees who move into Lebanon through unauthorised entries since they are deemed illegal immigrants.
Although the migrants are expected to register with the UNHCR to receive medical attention, shelter, and other fundamental needs, most of them remain unregistered. Moreover, the invasion of escapees has increased the country’s population to the level of resulting in a strained economy. Nonetheless, Lebanon’s authorities have continued to open their borders to offer the relevant assistance (The International Labour Organisation 2013).
Ironically, Iraq, which has been terrorised by extremist networks such as ISIS, is currently hosting about 249,000 migrants in the northern part of the country (Martinez 2015). In fact, Iraqi refugees who had fled to Syria in search of serenity are rushing back accompanied by other Syrians. The migrants are hosted in refugee camps by the Kurdistan Regional government assisted by numerous humanitarian agencies.
Just like its counterparts, Egypt also hosts Syrian refugees. However, political uncertainties and the absence of national asylum structures and organisations have made it difficult for the registration of migrants. The UNHCR (2013) is struggling to register and accommodate Syrians who move into the country.
Although the Egyptian authorities have attempted to offer medical and education facilities to the migrants, they barely meet the needs of the refugees. The education system is drained. Besides, the national public insurance covers are wretched. Humanitarian agencies have reported that the horrific conditions in Egypt have forced asylum-seekers to journey towards Europe assisted by human trafficking networks (Martinez 2015).
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Other countries have joined in solidarity with the Middle East to assist in resettling the migrants. According to Harding (2015), the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has called for the European Union members to work in harmony to accommodate the asylum seekers. Germany has already welcomed more than 98,000 migrants. It plans to accommodate up to 500,000 of them yearly. Sweden and France in support of Germany are already accepting more migrants.
The UK has also adopted a policy that will see it welcome asylum seekers who are being hosted in camps in the outskirts of Syria. It will offer the displaced persons a humanitarian protection visa that is expected to last for five years (Gunter 2014). The US has accepted a small number of refugees from Syria over the years.
It has also promised to raise the figure as the crisis persists. Although critics might question why the US only welcomes a few Syrian migrants, it should be noted that the country has provided the highest financial support of $574 million (Financial Tracking Service 2015). The Canadian authorities have also offered to accept 10,000 Syrian asylum seekers within three years (Martinez 2015).
While countries such as Denmark and Hungary have accommodated Syrian migrants, they are hesitant to accept new arrivals. Danish authorities have admitted that they can no longer sustain more asylum-seekers. Thus, they have restricted their entry. Hungary has even erected barriers along the Hungary-Serbia border to limit chances of the fleers crossing into the country. In fact, migrants who try to trespass the borders are stopped by police troops who push them to distasteful transit camps (Martinez 2015).
How Media Reports the situation of the Refugees and Reactions of Inhabitants of Countries hosting Refugees
The recent incident where a Hungarian journalist, Petra Laszlo, was caught on camera tripping a Syrian refugee and his son not only astounded the world but also re-affirmed the fragility of how the media portrays humanitarian issues (Blair 2015). As the Syrian refugee impasse becomes more newsworthy, there is the need to monitor how the press reports the refugees’ conditions.
The inhumane conditions of the 9/11 Afghan refugees and the Petra Lazlo case reiterate the importance of observing media representation of asylum seekers. The existing literature has shown that the press and the public theorise negative opinions that perceive asylum seekers as a threat and burden to the state. Conversely, other press groups portray refugees as victimised individuals who seek humanitarian attention.
This ambivalence representation of asylum seekers generates stereotypes that damage the public image. The media has a firm link with politics and society. Indeed, scholars such as Esses, Medianu, and Lawson (2013) have noted the stereotypes that the media officials portray about refugees influence on asylum policy legislation and implementation. As a mirror of the society, it is important to analyse how the media has handled the Syria refugee catastrophe
Esses, Medianu, and Lawson (2013) consider the refugee crisis a topical issue in the international press, particularly among the Western media. Although it has received mixed representation in the media, the reports are primarily positive. Despite the favourable representation, certain media companies have portrayed various stereotypes about the immigrants. Foremost, the media has reported that Syrian immigrants spread diseases.
The Telegraph and The Mirror have been recorded alluding that the asylum seekers can bring back polio to Europe and/or introduce strange ailments to the continent because of poor sanitary conditions of their camps. Secondly, some media reports claim that immigrants, particularly those who enter Europe, are exposing the country to invasion by terrorist groups such as the Al-Qaeda.
Moreover, others claim that asylum seekers are likely to pose economic instability since they compete for the limited resources. In fact, some press institutions have even questioned why their governments are accepting the dejected immigrants while they still have homeless inhabitants. A journalist in The Sun even encouraged the UK to curtail refugee incursion with the claim that the refugees could introduce their repressive system to the country (Esses, Medianu & Lawson 2013).
Clearly, negative discernments break the solidarity while at the same time promoting a scenario of ‘we’ versus ‘them’. Consequently, it creates tension between the locals and immigrants. Asylum seekers are straining the economies of their hosting countries, particularly states that neighbour Syria.
If the media continues to portray a negative image of the immigrants, then inhabitants of countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt are likely to begin clashing with the refugees. Indeed, it has been reported that Egyptian employees are reluctant to employ Syrian asylum seekers. Harsh treatment of Syrian immigrants in Hungary and Denmark must have also evolved from the negative stereotypes that the media conveyed to the residents (Hartocollis 2015).
As stated earlier, media officials report positive and neutral views about the fleers. One of the dominant themes has been that the refugees are innocent and vulnerable. Media reports have chiefly espoused that the main victims of the war are children and women who are desperate for assistance.
The empathy has attracted a huge number of inhabitants to welcome and assist the migrants. Secondly, the media has been emphatic that the world has a moral duty to care and protect the Syrians who are languishing in the war-torn country (Yan 2015). For instance, British press groups such as Telegraph and The Guardian have continuously reminded Britons of their philanthropic culture together with how they have always supported the hounded.
Furthermore, while some journalists have strived to tarnish the image of the refugees, several media personalities insist that the migrants are genuine victims of war. To ensure that readers can commiserate with the refugees, the theme of personal calamities has been prominent in the papers.
The reports include first account stories of women and children in Syria and experiences in pursuit of serenity. Images of women and children dominate the cover pages of most newspapers with headlines outlining the torment they endure. Indeed, the impact of such personalised stories is extensive (Refugee Council Website 2014).
Populations in countries that experience refugee influx have portrayed mixed reactions. Most of the inhabitants of the Middle East nations have welcomed the asylum seekers into their homes. It has been reported that some refugees flee from the camps to seek better shelter in the homes of the residents because of the hostile conditions in the camps.
Likewise, the UK and Germany have given them a warm reception in their homes. The UK locals are currently running a campaign titled ‘Syria Solidarity Movement UK.’ The campaign empathises on the Syrians’ push for the restoration of political and socio-economic stability in the country.
In stark contrast, refugees are getting inimical treatment in Hungary. The asylum seekers get hostage in caged camps that have poor sanitation and unreliable meals. While Hungary keeps locking out refugees, it remains a crucial entry point for fleers who move into Europe. Most of the desperate refugees are unwilling to reside in Hungary, particularly because of the inhumane treatment they receive from the authorities and most of the citizens.
Under the leadership of Viktor Orban, Hungary has developed a spiteful policy for refugees (Hartocollis 2015). The situation is similar in Denmark and other Balkan states. The maltreatment of asylum seekers in the Balkan states is depressing. Asylum seekers are longing to leave the country.
Countries that avoid taking the Responsibility for Refugees
While Balkan states are offering the asylum seekers a hostile reception, the Gulf nations, other than the United Arab Emirates (the UAE), are hosting zero Syrian refugees. Despite being closer to Syria and speaking a language that Syrians can understand, Gulf States have kept their borders closed to bar the entry of asylum seekers.
Ironically, their leaders have been fervent in condemning the ongoing conflict in Syria as the state press relentlessly reports on the progress of the civil war. Humanitarians across the world have criticised the Arab nations’ deceptive response towards the Syrian humanitarian upheaval (Hubbard 2015).
The Gulf nations have no legal duty to assist and welcome refugees. They are not signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which among other issues, provides the legal duties of a state with respect to refugees.
However, while the countries do not have an official obligation to cater for the asylum seekers, they also have no rule prohibiting them from doing so to cater for the suffering refugees. The United Nations has been unequivocal on the issue of displaced persons. It has insisted that politically and economically stable countries should welcome the asylum seekers (Hubbard 2015).
The issue is not only more of munificence and less of a legal duty but also a virtuous responsibility. The Gulf States have a stronger economy than most of the Middle East states that are struggling with the refugee influx. They can accommodate even more refugees than Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Additionally, the governments of the Arab nations have a moral responsibility to support suffering people. Likewise, humanitarian agencies are also agitating for high-income nations such as Singapore, Russia, as well as Japan to quit playing shadowy roles and begin resettling the refugees (Hubbard 2015).
Scope of intercultural and cross- cultural communication in helping Refugees
Indeed, the Syrian refugees have received a conflicting reception from the various countries where they have sought asylum. The situation raises the question of why one state would warmly accept refugees while another country remains antagonistic to refugees. Other countries choose to play a spectral role of criticising a war while refusing to accommodate any of the victims.
Furthermore, one wonders why the media would adamantly portray an unfavourable image of asylum seekers while other journalists encourage the society to empathise with the refugees. Finally, one may wish to know the scope of intercultural and cross-cultural communication in helping refugees.
The mixed response towards refugees may have been induced by the uncertainty that people have when they meet individuals with different traditions. The conflicting languages, mannerisms, cuisine, and dressing issues engender unnecessary but dangerous variations.
Consequently, they develop stereotypes as evidenced by some Western media reports about the Syrian migrants. Additionally, it can be linked to the notion that the difference in culture hinders communication. Culture has a dominant influence during information sharing. Comprehending one’s culture is vital when examining the intention and behaviour of another party.
Cross-cultural communication involves the interaction of individuals from disparate cultural settings. On the other hand, intercultural communication refers to the type of communication that is meant to convey information to various cultures, as well as social factions. Intercultural and cross-cultural communication strategies are of crucial importance when people from different backgrounds relate (Lauring 2011). Similarly, such strategies are relevant to the issue of Syria refugees.
As the migrants seek sanctuary in various countries across the world, they are destined to meet inhabitants with clashing norms. The conflicting culture creates a gap in communication, unless the locals and immigrants make efforts to reconcile their differences. The refugee influx is likely to trigger culture clash while at the same time crippling communication, especially to the Syrians who have moved to Europe and North America.
The situation will derail the process of providing basic needs such as education and medical attention. Physicians should be trained on cross-cultural sensitivity such that they can understand the immigrant patients and respond to their needs aptly. Education systems across the world should be adjusted to incorporate cross-cultural communication studies to hasten the adoption of the displaced children (ORSAM 2014).
The scope of cross-cultural communication should never be overlooked. Poor cross-cultural communication causes the misinterpretation of information, which can eventually trigger dispute. In fact, the resentment of the Balkan states towards asylum seekers can partly be linked to the misconception of words and behaviour.
The Syrian refugee crisis is indeed one of the most atrocious humanitarian disasters. Desperate migrants have had to flee to the neighbouring countries for safety. The influx has affected the socio-economic status of the hosting countries when most nations begin feeling the strain on their resources.
Consequently, some countries have developed a hostile attitude towards the refugees. Some states have even adamantly refused to open their borders to accommodate the refugees, even though they clearly have the capability. The media has conveyed a negative and positive view about the refugees. The mixed response towards the refugees can partly be because of poor intercultural and cross-cultural communication. An improvement in cross-cultural competency can help to quell the hostility between inhabitants and migrants.
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