Read Gilbert, Putting the Present in Context

Refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and the concerns regarding them seem to have become a permanent fixture of our daily news.  Yet it is important to remember that a generation ago, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of borders to the West, people who had been struggling under the yoke of Communism found sanctuary and enriched the cultures that absorbed them.  Were the numbers comparable to the refugee crisis Europe now faces?

According to the Pew Research Center, “About 1 million displaced Syrians have moved to Europe as asylum seekers or refugees since the conflict began ….”

In 1990, with the fall of the Soviet Union, 1.3 million refugees fled to the West, 400,000 of whom were granted asylum in Western Europe, as the map below shows.


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