Editor’s Note: The following article was authored by Hadeel Oueis, a prominent writer from the Middle East whose work has appeared in numerous American and Middle Eastern news outlets. Below, she provides her valuable perspective on immigration. Because of her unique story, New Revere editors have applied only minimal edits to her work. We hope you enjoy it.
Sweden and Germany were very humane and generous to welcome all the Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans who knocked on their doors, regardless of their background. They accepted the poor, the wealthy, the successful, the hopeless, the young and the old—everyone who asked for refugee status—and they often did so without conducting any serious background checks.
I personally know people who fought during the war in Syria, people who were allied with Iranian militias or radical rebel groups. They, too, were accepted as refugees in the European Union. There were often no standards for accepting people. They accepted anyone who were able to make it to smugglers’ boats in Libya and Turkey.
The job of smuggling continues to flourish every summer in the Middle East and North Africa region, and the misery continues for many who have been exploited. In many cases refugees drown in the Mediterranean with their helpless children.
The ramifications of illegal immigration in Europe have been disastrous, and they are not limited to the danger of the trip across the Mediterranean Sea. Looking at the massive number of illegal immigrants who have become refugees in places like Germany and Sweden, you’ll see new kinds of problems emerging in the refugee communities and for the citizens of Europe—challenges that threaten Western culture and limit refugees and make them feel forsaken.
Accepting more than a million refugees in Europe helped a lot of displaced people who lost everything in Syria and Iraq and spent their few remaining pennies in the boat that took them to the other side of the world. But are they happy? Can they really make a new successful life and look forward? In many cases, no. It’s almost impossible in Europe now for a refugee.
The huge amount of illegal refugees who came in waves together and entered the Western world for the first time resulted in the emergence of new communities located inside long-established Western communities, many of which are closed and ultra-conservative places that believe in different values.
In Berlin, you can go to the “Arab street,” eat, meet people, buy all of your needs, without the need of any interaction with any Deutsch language speaker. This is happening because of a mutual desire not to communicate from both the newcomers and from Europeans. The inflow of refugees made some radicals suddenly very popular in Europe, and even among many who have never been interested in their radical ideas before. Many were shocked by the amount of strangers that seemed to conquer European cities.
Last summer, I was in Stockholm. While there, I closed my eyes in the street and listened to the noise, and while doing so, I felt as though I was in Cairo or Damascus because all I could hear is Arabic speaking. And this transition won’t end soon. Increasingly more refugees are going to conquer Europe since there is no clear policy that demands immigrants, even some illegal immigrants, to return home. Many have entered Europe illegally despite the fact many of the sea routes have been blocked by European authorities. That didn’t stop human traffickers from finding new routes, and they don’t care if the new routes are deadly and dangerous.
The citizens of Europe have started to create barriers for refugees. Business owners sometimes exploit refugees. Some work more than 12 hours for just $20 in the black market. This has made some newcomers feel isolated and has discouraged them from interacting with Europeans or trying to seek a better future. Many choose to stay close to the “old community.” For most of the refugees, they are not learning anything new from their new European neighbors, who are very protective and hesitant to accept these newcomers with their strange cultures.
These closed communities can have a negative effect for the refugees because it’s preventing them from assimilating in the new country in a healthy way. It’s also unhealthy for the European communities because they are now living next to neighborhoods where people in many incidents would be hostile to the western values.
New and sometimes dangerous values have entered Europe, like legitimizing a crime in the name of “honor.” A few months ago, a Syrian man stabbed his wife with the help of his 12-year-old child because she asked for a divorce and married a man from another sect. This is culturally accepted in many poor rural areas in Syria. These areas have been mostly destroyed in Syria, so the vast majority of those who have arrived in many parts of Europe are from these communities. I am not judging their culture in general, but it’s very different from what is commonly found in Europe and can’t be mixed with Western values.
In Germany, on New Year’s Eve, many people heard how some refugees attempted to rape women with short dresses. Why would you come to live in Europe if you can’t bear to be around women with short dresses? Who let you into the country in the first place?
The generous welfare system in places like Sweden and Germany is another thing that keeps refugees isolated. Enough money to eat is sent to each refugee family on a monthly basis. The more kids you have, the more money you get. It’s very popular today to see a Syrian woman in Berlin pregnant with her 13th baby. This offers two benefits from their perspective: more money from the social system and populating Europe with their kids. The European welfare system can over the long term be destructive for migrants and Western communities.
In America, the scene has been very different—not only under Trump’s administration but also under Obama’s. Only a couple thousand Syrians were accepted to enter the United States. Trump banned some Syrians, but it wasn’t so much different under Obama administration. Trump just talked more about it.
Under the administration of former President Obama, a friend of mine visited the United States’ embassy in Damascus several times until her name was leaked in WikiLeaks. She was denied from having a refugee status in America after waiting for five years. The lady belongs to a Christian family. She is successful and wealthy, but the refugee status was still denied.
America have accepted a relatively small number of people from Syria since the beginning of the war, and the standards have been very difficult. Those who have been accepted were carefully investigated to fit in this country and to be able to live with its values. I see more success stories for the refugees in America than in Europe as a result.
I am from Syria and wanted to come to America. I took all the needed steps and waited for long months in another country before finally receiving a positive letter. After seven years of hard studying and work in the United States, I live in a nice tower in Montgomery County near Washington, DC. I drive a nice car and I have a great job. Here, you can find a job in one day if you really want to work.
My daughter who was born here goes to a beautiful private school. My neighbors are friendly and helpful and I have never faced any discrimination in this country. In Europe, they use the term “refugee community,” but they don’t exclude immigrants in the same way in America, because the United States takes more time and serious effort to help refugees assimilate in American society.
In Europe, especially the small cities where refugees can afford living, jobs like waitress or cashier in a store is awfully hard to find. When they find it, the refugee compares the salary from the welfare with the salary from washing dishes for 16 hours, and they often find it easier to depend on welfare instead. This is why we see most of the immigrant youth in Europe spending their days smoking shisha or marijuana.
Further, entering illegally prevents migrants from fully developing and assimilating. It’s hard for an illegal migrant to be a productive part of the new community. Not putting an end to smuggling people illegally will encourage human traffickers to be even more greedy and reckless in risking people’s lives.
The beauty of the diversity in America and the harmony here are wonderful. They exist because of the Constitution, which can make anyone feel home. In America, success is not dependent on a person’s color or accent, and immigrants can feel at home and find great opportunities, so long as they come here the right way and choose to live a legal life with dignity and hope.
The quality of the life is better for legal migrants and refugees in America because of the more difficult immigration process. Even if illegal immigrants are able to make it to America with their kids, the life for illegal immigrants is never easy.
The people who come from Latin America are hardworking and disciplined people, and even those who come illegally, they work hard in black market and save money. But in the end, many of them are exploited because of the black market. They don’t have full rights.
If you come to America only to make money, a Latin American citizen who is willing to work can find a good job that earns fair money in many wealthy countries around the world that needs a lot of foreign workers, like Kuwait, UAE, Malaysia, and other places. But if you love America’s freedom and want to live the American dream, you won’t live it if you come illegally and spend most of your days with other Latin American workers. You won’t even learn the English language that way.
The privilege of being American is worth the discipline and patience. If you don’t get in the first time, improve yourself, your experiences, your education, and your wealth in any part of the world and try again and again legally to make it to the United States. If you do, you’ll see how America will appreciate having a successful individual legally in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Hadeel Oueis is a writer and T.V. commentator on U.S.- Middle East issues, based in Washington, DC. She writes for American/Arabic news outlets with more than 250,000 followers on social media platforms. Oueis opposes all kinds of extremism and advocates for moderate, progressive communities in the Middle East.