Watching the tragedy of Syrian refugees unfold makes me wonder if we’ve learned anything from the past refugee crises. It seemed that Europe had learned some lessons as they dealt with the refugee crisis from the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s. But the combination of economic crisis, anti-Islamic sentiments, and inter-E.U. bickering has set this latest crisis up to be a disaster. The U.S. response has been lackluster as well. We are better able to handle large numbers of refugees, and given the fact that we bear some responsibility for the crisis we have a moral obligation to help the victims fleeing Syria.
Maybe it’s too late, but for what it’s worth Alexander Betts, professor of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, discusses the history of refugee crises and lays out five history lessons.