John Oliver Explains Prejudice, Red Tape of European Migrant Crisis

'Last Week Tonight' host recruits 'Days of Our Lives' actors for special segment dedicated to 16-year-old Syrian refugee

Fleeing economic hardship and violence from countries like Iraq and Syria, hundreds of thousands of migrants have headed to Europe in recent months. And for many, this often painful and tumultuous journey has been more difficult as a result of national prejudice and red tape. John Oliver breaks down the myriad problems in his latest Last Week Tonight report. 

Illustrating some media outlets' shocking terrorism paranoia, Oliver cuts to a Fox News report that features footage of Muslim refugees on a train with captions "Terrifying Chant" and "Terrorists Inbound?" In addition to stereotyping strangers, the video is also inaccurate since, as Last Week Tonight discovered, it was originally posted online in 2010.

"For the record, these people are coming from many different countries and fleeing everything from civil war to economic stagnation," Oliver says. "And while each story is unique, many of them are heartbreaking."

Oliver argues that "Europe has yet to create an effective system to process this influx of people," explaining how each country has a completely different application process, with some "totally overwhelmed and underfunded." The host cites a form recently given to an Iraqi refugee in Turkey, telling him to come back February 19th, 2020. "That is ridiculous," Oliver says. "These people can't go five years without working. They're refugees, not Reneé Zellweger." 

Politicians in many countries – including Hungary, Denmark and the Netherlands – have been outspoken about their anti-migrant policies, and Slovakia officials recently stated they won't accept Muslims because they don't have any mosques.

"When refugees are not being excluded on the basis of religion, they're being accused of being lazy freeloaders," Oliver says. However, citing a study from The Washington Post, he adds that "research has shown that while there is some small cost in the short-term, an influx of lower-wage immigrants into a community tends to raise wages for everyone else."

The saddest part of this hostility is that, by excluding so many, countries are rejecting people like Noujain Mustaffa, a charming 16-year-old Syrian refugee who learned English by watching The Days of Our Lives. As a treat for Noujain, Last Week Tonight filmed a hilarious segment with her favorite characters, EJ (James Scott) and Sami (Alison Sweeney). 

Cheating death after being resurrected by German witch doctors, EJ says his plight isn't that difficult, all things considered. "Coming back from the dead, that's not hard. You know what's hard? Getting from Syria to Germany."