In recent years, Western attitudes towards refugees and migrants have taken a negative turn. While many citizens of Western countries remain keen to offer refuge to foreigners fleeing conflict and poverty in their own states, there is also a degree of hostility.
Politicians in multiple countries have demonised migrants and limited the number of refugees they’re willing to accept annually.
Harsh measures have been taken to deter those trying to enter Western countries, whether Donald Trump’s promise to ‘build a wall’ along the US-Mexico border, Britain’s attempts to deport those arriving by small boat to Rwanda, or the EU constructing migrant camps that have been likened to prisons on Greece’s islands.
However, this is a relatively new phenomenon.
Historically, at least since the Second World War, Western nations have been less hostile to both migrants and refugees. While tensions have existed, at moments of crisis, Western leaders have proved welcoming, such as Britain accepting Asians expelled from Uganda in 1972 or the United States resettling over a million Indochinese after the end of the Vietnam War.
On those occasions, it seemed Western leaders were willing to accept a degree of responsibility for their own states’ roles in contributing to the crisis refugees were fleeing, whether the longer legacies of empire in East Africa or the more recent conflict in Indochina.
Not impartial bystanders
Yet today, less responsibility is being taken.
Many migrants and refugees are fleeing states experiencing conflicts, economic conditions or dictatorships in the Middle East, Africa, and Central America.
Many Western states refusing them entry have not been impartial bystanders but have contributed considerably to the instability they are fleeing.