Accessibility links

Skilled Refugees Can Help Lift Aging Europe


While thousands of refugees are trapped outside Western Europe after risking their lives to get on the continent, those that have made it say they face an uncertain and, at least for now, lonely future. Courtesy photo from refugee in Germany, Sept. 19, 2015.

While thousands of refugees are trapped outside Western Europe after risking their lives to get on the continent, those that have made it say they face an uncertain and, at least for now, lonely future. Courtesy photo from refugee in Germany, Sept. 19, 2015.


Thousands of war refugees from Syria and Iraq are arriving in Europe every day. Many of them are young, educated and skilled.

Those individuals and aid groups say the refugees should be welcomed, and not feared.

Like many young Syrians, 27-year-old Abdul Salam does not plan to return to his home country. He has been living in Turkey for the past five years, but does not believe he has much of a future there. The reason: Turkey has few jobs for refugees.

He now talks of wanting to travel to Europe to complete his college studies and start a new life.

The young man says many Europeans do not understand that many war refugees could help the countries that accept them.

He says European governments should let the refugees seek visas.

This might stop people from making dangerous journeys by sea or paying criminal groups to move them across borders. Mr. Salam and others say European countries should consider the refugees as an opportunity, not a burden.

Benedict Dempsey is a policy director for the international aid group Mercy Corps. He says many people in Syria are highly educated. He notes that “a large number of educated people…are leaving Syria and…now arriving in Europe.”

Mr. Dempsey says many refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan are seeking a better life. So too, he says, are many migrants, those moving from place to place for economic reasons. He says they want to work. He says they do not want to bring conflict to Europe.

In the first seven months of this year, 67 percent of those fleeing war and arriving illegally in Europe were between the ages of 14 and 34. Many are young men escaping forced service in government militaries or in militant groups. Their families told the men to flee because they believed they would be able to deal with the possible risks of illegal entry.

Some Europeans fear the refugees threaten the continent’s security, economy and culture. Some Americans are also worried about the effect of the refugees on their country.

Donald Trump is seeking to become the Republican Party’s presidential candidate. He has criticized President Barack Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 Syrians into the United States. Mr. Trump said earlier this month that if he is elected president, he would return them to Syria because he fears they could be Islamists.

Some political leaders in Europe have expressed similar concerns.

Many European countries have an aging population. The young refugees could help lower the average age. More than one-fifth of Europeans will be 65 or older by 2025. If Europe does not become younger, it may not have the money to care for so many older people.

Mr. Dempsey said the refugees “should be seen as much as an opportunity as (they are) any kind of risk.” He notes that the risk will be greater if European countries do not accept the refugees into their societies.

He says even if the international community helps countries close to Syria, refugees would still want to live in Europe. He says that is because not enough jobs would be created in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq because of the large numbers of refugees fleeing to those countries.

Experts say refugees will continue to flee to Europe.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

What do you think about the refugee situation? Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Jamie Dettmer in Turkey reported this story for VOANews.com. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

journey – n. an act of traveling from one place to another

opportunity – n. a set of conditions that makes it possible to do something

burden – n. someone or something that is very difficult to accept, a hardship, something heavy

society – n. people in general thought of as living together in organized communities with shared laws, traditions and values

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG