My friend Mohammed (not his real name) dreams of coming to America with me some day. He tells me that once he gets his German passport he wants to see where I am from.
As an Afghan, he is considered an “economic refugee” (which is to say that he is not a refugee). So he is not accorded the same rights as someone from Syria, because his homeland is considered “safe”. Never mind that the Taliban, and ISIS, are vying for control of his country, he is likely to be told that he must go home.
Mohammed is a refugee, in the realest sense of the word, but the EU doesn’t see it this way. Having thrown open their doors in a very inspirational fashion, the German government soon learned that it wasn’t just the Syrians that would come, but that the invitation was heard throughout the Middle East, and North Africa as well.
From my vantage point, this open door has not created the crime problems that most Americans think Europe is facing. I feel safer here, in one of the roughest neighborhoods of Berlin, than I do in any neighborhood of my hometown. But there is another situation. The refugees themselves are being preyed upon.
I’ve heard of cases where families that are obviously going to be sent home being fleeced by inhuman predatory attorneys who propagate false hope, lining their pockets with the meager life savings of desperate people, people they know they cannot help. I heard a story the other day of someone taking a 4,000 euro deposit on an “apartment” and that apartment ended up being in a refugee camp!
I wonder if the millions and millions of economic refugees that have come to America via our southern border face similar situations? I wonder how many waste money on legal proceedings that will go nowhere? How many settle for substandard housing? How many for low wages because they need to stay under the radar?
Mohammed is applying for asylum. This is where he gets to pass from being a man apart from his country, to a man with a new country. This is what will allow him to take a job, and see his children grow up in relative safety. This is what will afford him the freedom to hear the Gospel and consider its vital truth.
All of the “refugees” from the Middle East who end up in America are not really refugees, they are asylum seekers. They are not hitting the Carolina coast in rafts, they are processed through a system that considers many factors, including what kind of citizens they would make. There is a religious test, there always has been one. There is a need to learn English, and show the wherewithal to make it in the U.S.A. And once they are in America, they tend to stay.
In Europe, the situation of refugees coming from Turkey and North Africa is more like that of those from Mexico and Central America coming to the US, than it is of Middle Eastern refugees coming to the US. The Mediterranean and Aegean being a more formidable Rio Grande, they come with the same dreams.
Mohammed and his family are relatively safe from the predators because he has relationships. He has us in his life, and our local church as well. We listen to them, and they bring their struggles to us. We are there to advocate, and protect.
Although we cannot help them to stay, we hope that they can. Meanwhile, we share the truth of Jesus with them all, in words and deeds. We know this is their true hope, wherever they might live. Please keep praying for the refugees here. We believe God has brought them here, whether for a season, or to build a life. We must expose them to the light of the Gospel.
I too dream of bringing Mohammed to the US, to meet my friends and experience where I grew up. I’d also love for him to be able to take me home to Afghanistan, so that I could experience his home country. I pray for a world in which this could all happen. For now it seems so far away.