Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Refugees to Europe

"For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." - Deuteronomy 10: 17-19 (NAS)
Refugees and immigrants are perennial issues in "advanced" (rich) countries. Sometimes more acutely than others.

The European Union countries are in one of those more acute phases, with the wars and revolutions in the Middle East are increasing the flight of refugees into Europe.

Croatian philosopher and political theorist Srećko Horvat warned of the implications of a narrow-minded, xeonophobic response to immigration in As Lampedusa shows, the EU's attitude to migrants will be its own undoing The Guardian 10/10/2013:

During the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the war of the 90s, refugees from Croatia, Bosnia or Kosovo survived only because they were given asylum by some European countries. Today, just 20 years later, it is our countries that are sought out by refugees from Afghanistan, Libya or Pakistan, desperate to get to the EU. ...

... Croatia is the EU country with the longest land border with non-EU countries, somewhat longer than that of Finland/Russia (1,340km) and Greece/Turkey (1,248km). Much of this border is shared with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. ...

Is not the EU today also destroying what it is desperately trying to save, a centralised and monocultural Europe that is actually a rather recent phenomenon because such a situation didn't even exist before 1945? And isn't Europe, via Frontex, which controls border management, trying to save what cannot be saved, the "Fortress Europe" that is already conquered, not by mighty immigrants but by its own impotence and by the power of global capital?

The European problem is not the intruding barbarians – the problem is, and the recent tragedy of Lampedusa is a clear example, that the EU itself has become barbaric.
I generally dislike the "Is not the EU today ..." "And isn't Europe" type formulation, which makes a point as a question, thus partially distancing the speaker/writer from the point they are making.

But in this case, Horvat is making a clear point.

And "Lampedusa" is an ongoing symbol of the refugee crisis. (Lampedusa is an Italian island that has a major refugee reception center.) Kim Sengupta just reported in Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa The Independent 09/01/2015

As a senior United Nations official, Philippe Douste-Blazy has seen his share of harrowing sights. But nothing had prepared even him for the scenes he encountered while on a fact-finding mission to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.

On his first trip out with Italian coastguards, he found himself staring into the hold of a smugglers’ boat with more than 50 dead migrants on board, including babies. On his second, he saw men drowning on a sinking boat and women suffering miscarriages.

“People need to see the full horror of what’s going on, and how desperate these refugees and migrants are. Then I am sure they will want to help,” he told The Independent. “The talk from politicians is of invasion, mass migration. The mood that has been created is one of xenophobia, of nationalism, of fear.
Sengupta also provides some recent refugee counts:

Figures newly released by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) showed this was the largest migration of people in Europe since the Second World War. Some 234,770 migrants arrived in Greece alone this year, compared to the 219,000 for the whole of Europe last year; another 114,276 came to Italy and thousands more landed in Spain and Malta.
The Frontex agency that coordinates border security operations for the EU countries reports (23,000 Migrants Arrived in Greece Last Week 09/01/2015):

More than 23 000 migrants arrived in Greece by sea last week, nearly 50 percent more than in the previous week, according to preliminary data collected by Frontex.

In the Frontex-coordinated Operation Triton in the Central Mediterranean, 5 400 were rescued last week, roughly in line with the previous one. There were also 55 bodies recovered in the seven-day period, mainly those from below the deck of a wooden boat intercepted by Swedish vessel Poseidon.

“This was a very dark week. We are deeply saddened by the deaths of migrants near the Libyan shore and in the lorry in Austria,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri. “Frontex will continue to do all it can in the areas of its operations to save as many lives as possible. But it is clear that we go against traffickers who are clearly not concerned with offering a safe passage. They are ruthless and will do anything for profit.”
But Statistics fail to fully communicate the human tragedies and grief that are so much a part of these desperate migrations. Like this one (Daniel McLaughlin, Migrants live and die with desperation to reach EU Irish Times 09/01/2015):

On Monday morning, Mohammed (44), a maths teacher from Baghdad, sat exhausted in a field in Hungary with his wife and young son.

They had reached the EU, but only after giving €4,200 to a man in Serbia to show them where to cross the border without being caught. They did not want to apply for asylum in Hungary, but in Belgium, where Mohammed’s parents lived.

Now they were a little closer to them, but also a little nearer destitution.

“Police with dogs caught us straight away,” said Mohammed. “Now they will fingerprint us here and we will never get to Belgium.”
And the worst sorts of human parasites take advantage of their desperation: "All the way, people profit from their desperation, exploiting their fear, ignorance of local geography and laws, and illegal status. Many are left penniless after being repeatedly ripped off; others are left to die in locked trucks on EU motorways."

The Catholic News Service reports on "the deaths of the 59 men, eight women and four children, whose decomposing remains were found by police Aug. 27 when a maintenance team reported the abandoned refrigerator truck [in Austria]." (Discovery of refugee bodies should awaken Europe, says Vienna cardinal National Catholic Reporter 08/28/2015):

Austrian church leaders, reacting to the discovery of dozens of dead refugees on a truck near Vienna, said they hoped it would increase awareness of the plight of migrants.

"Such refugee suffering should awaken us, like a bolt from the blue, to the need for more generous attitudes and courageous decisions. The joint handling of the refugee tragedy in the face of such inhumanity is a test for European values," Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, president of the Austrian bishops' conference, told the Kathpress news agency Aug. 28.

"My sympathy is with those who've suffered this imaginably agonizing death, and I cannot find words for the contempt for human life shown by the traffickers," he said.

No comments: