The Refugee Crisis Presents a Chance for Emerging Countries Like Brazil to Be Players



by Oliver Stuenkel

The countries most affected by the Syrian refugee crisis are Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, home to more than 3.6 million refugees — far more than in Europe, where the number of those seeking shelter makes up less than 0.2 percent of the continent’s population. Europe, Japan and the United States must do more, but developing countries — particularly those with global ambitions — should also make a meaningful contribution to global security by accepting larger numbers of refugees.

Latin American governments have announced that they will accept more Syrian refugees, yet the numbers mentioned are paltry. Considering Brazil’s population of 200 million, even doubling the number of refugees the country as accepted (currently standing at less than 8,000) falls short of what should be expected of a country that aims to play a leading role in global affairs – and which is home to more than 10 million people of Arabic descent.

In 1900, 7.3 percent of Brazil's population were immigrants, today it's 0.3 percent and declining. By comparison, the foreign population of countries such the United Kingdom and the United States is more than 10 percent, and in Australia it is above 20 percent. Brazil could absorb 50,000 refugees without causing a surge of xenophobia; and it would help the country's economy by reducing Brazil’s chronic shortage of skilled workers and boosting innovation. Financial support could be requested from richer countries unwilling to take refugees – such as Japan, China and Saudi Arabia.

In the same way, other large countries in Latin America, such as Mexico and Argentina, should recognize that the refugee crisis in the Middle East is not regional, but global, requiring a broad response. As the world is facing its most severe refugee crisis since World War II, there has never been a better moment to assume leadership on the issue to strengthen their case for a more prominent global role.

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