Europe fails the test of humanity on refugees
Expanding military conflicts from one region to another, civil wars in failed nations, deepening social and economic injustice in the world and creating hopeless generations have already turned the 21st century into the age of refugees.
Dozens of millions of people are leaving their homes to find a better and safer future for themselves and their families, often risking their lives at the hands of human smugglers, particularly from east to west, south to north.
In a recent tragedy, two boats packed with around 170 migrants are believed to have sunk off Libya. Adding more pain to it is the fact that states in the region abandoned their responsibility “to coordinate search and rescue operations, leaving private actors and civil society to fill the deadly void they leave behind,” according to SOS Mediterranee, a non-governmental organization.
It also informed that more than 350 people have died in 2021 in the Central Mediterranean making the perilous voyage from Libya to Europe. Plus, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a report at the end of March that last year more than 2,200 people perished at sea.
Another tragedy is frequently happening in the Aegean Sea where the Greek coastal guards are pushing back refugees towards Anatolia at the expense of endangering their lives. The U.N. and major NGOs have long been criticizing the Greek government for this inhuman behavior with insistent calls to improve the conditions for the migrants who are kept in the islands as well.
Another eyebrow-raising and worrying move came from Denmark which is preparing to cancel temporary residence permits of hundreds of Syrian refugees coming originally from the Damascus area as the Syrian capital was declared safe by Danish authorities. Reports suggest that around 500 Syrians will be affected by this decision which has already created legal and humanitarian problems.
The political and ethical dimension of the problem is much more problematic. The fact that this decision was taken by a social democrat government supported by socialist and liberal parties in parliament is triggering more worrisome questions about the future of migrants living across the European continent.
These sort of discriminatory, xenophobic policies do not befit European Union values, basic human rights and democratic norms which were explained in the Copenhagen criteria, ironically.
This insensitive understanding does also reflect itself over the EU’s cooperation with Turkey in helping around four million Syrian refugees being hosted on Turkish territories for years. As the two sides are about to negotiate for the renewal of the 2016 statement on the migrants, the EU’s approach largely remains to be limited with continued financial assistance.
Although the EU had promised for the resettlement of the Syrian refugees, as seen in the case of Denmark, let alone accepting more immigrants, they are trying to get rid of them, if they can.
Before negotiating with Turkey on the renewal of the statement, EU leaders should first renew their mindsets for the humane treatment and acceptance of the immigrants. It’s a human responsibility.