First things first: the EU governments have officially lost the plot on the refugee crisis.
Yesterday, on September 14, the EU justice ministers met in Brussels. The outcome of the meeting was a failure.
They failed to agree on anything including their own proposal for a relocation scheme (quota) for 160,000 refugees. They also couldn’t reach any conclusions on the wider EU policies on refugees and their immediate actions.
On September 9, the European Commission (EC) had issued a press release titled “Refugee Crisis: European Commission takes decisive action”
It said, “Delivering on the European Agenda on Migration from May, the European Commission is today putting forward a comprehensive package of proposals which will help address the refugee crisis.”
It concluded with “Next Steps: The extraordinary Home Affairs Council on migration on 14 September will be the next opportunity for Member States to discuss and adopt the Commission’s legislative proposals.”
The EC better learn that scheduling a meeting of wafflers is not a decisive action. It is just a meeting. Only a decisive action is a decisive action.
The press release and the announced ‘next steps’ were proven to be meaningless and redundant.
Reacting to this failure the EC has called an emergency meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers on September 22.
The EC says, “This is meeting is called in a bid to secure agreement on a cohesive EU response to the migration crisis”
The ‘refugee quota system is in crisis’.
The EU is also in crisis.
Putting aside for a moment the refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the current crisis began back in 2011, as the first refugees from Syria started fleeing into the neighbouring countries.
Back then, as Britain and the US were talking about various intervention plans in Syria, and as the US proxy states in the region started sponsoring the counter-revolutionary forces, the first refugees emerged.
But, since 2011, the EU governments continuously ignored the human suffering and instead of recognising the needs of the war victims, opening the borders and putting in place a fair-just and humanitarian resettlement program, they turned their backs on the refugees.
It didn’t stop at that.
In late 2014 the EU ended the search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum. This resulted in the death of more than 2000 refugees.
Since the beginning of 2015, the EU has played the ‘victim’ and continued with its refusal to deal with the refugee crisis. In April they announced a 10-point action plan which was mostly about stopping the refugees from crossing the Mediterranean. That action plan also failed. As they tried to shut-down the Mediterranean the refugees started to arrive via the Aegean Sea. As there are now efforts to block Aegean crossing the refugees have started to use the land crossing from Turkey into Bulgaria and Greece.
The EU utterly failed to understand what the refugees were saying:
“We have no choice, no option. We must cross, we will cross. The alternative for us is death. Even if there was a government decision to drown the migrant boats, there will still be people going because the individual considers himself dead already ” (Abu Jana – Syrian refugee)
Today, as more EU summits are convened the meaningless resettlement (quota) system is in crisis.
There are multiple reasons for that.
First of all, the resettlement program is not driven by the realities of the crisis. Putting forward a number that doesn’t even register when compared to the total number of refugees is meaningless.
What will the EU do when the 160,001st refugee child arrives on their doorsteps?
Given the fact that what drives the refugees to EU countries is not the ‘golden opportunities’ in Europe but the horrific situation in their home countries and the worsening conditions in Turkey-Jordan-Lebanon etc, where millions of refugees are facing an intolerable future, how are the EU states expecting that there will be no more refugees coming once the quota has been reached?
There are only two possible answers to this question: insanity or total callousness and indifference to human suffering.
Secondly, as the total number of 160,000 for resettlement was announced, each and every EU government engaged in a numbers game to make sure that they would take the least possible number of refugees over the longest possible duration.
Every government rushed to argue for their own ‘national interests’. In this competitive race to bottom the individual numbers put forward by EU states did not even add up to the total figure of 160,000.
With countries such as Britain, Hungary, Denmark, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, France taking unilateral actions and announcing their objection to the EU wide quota the crisis deepened further. And currently, as the various EU meetings continue so do the refugee deaths…
But, a bigger and more significant crisis is emerging in the EU.
Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Netherlands are arming and closing their borders to refugees. Serbia is also closing its borders. The main rail and motorway route from the Balkans to Germany and beyond is effectively blockaded with barbed wires, railway and motorway closures. Sweden and Poland are also considering implementing border controls.
Germany closing its borders has sparked a domino effect.
All of these border closures, check-points, barbed wires will lead to the creation of de facto refugee camps at each border and these will be similar to the situation in Calais. Unable to move forward, the refugees gathered at various borders will be stuck. Like in French Calais, the EU states will then end up having to do something about these refugee groups at their borders.
Winter is coming and people can’t be left out in the open. Or maybe they can!
Refugees on Greek islands and mainland Greece will also be stuck.
But in the end, nothing will be solved with these border closures and the refugees will keep coming.
They have to.
EU leaders can’t simply admit that there is war and killing in various countries and then expect refugees, ordinary people not to flee from these places.
There is also another issue with these border closures and check-points.
It is a departure from a core tenet of EU policy to keep its internal borders open. This decision marks a break from two decades of open travel under the Schengen Agreement, which abolished all passport control between the 22 EU member states and a handful of non-member states.
Dozens of major arterial routes have been closed across the continent and most of the traffic – including the traffic of EU citizens – on these major routes has been re-routed. Train and ferry services are shutdown that also impacts the movement of European citizens.
These measures are effectively targeting the open travel and free passage rights of EU citizens.
The unilateral border closures by individual EU countries are another sign of how far away the EU is from a commonly accepted agreement.
The border closures are already causing a lot chaos and frustration among the refugees.
Today there were a number of protests by the refugees calling on the states to open the borders.
The Turkish government also physically blocked refugees from crossing into Greece and there were protests by the refugees at the Turkish-Greek border.
This chaos can easily escalate. The atmosphere is tense.
The organised racist-fascist movements in various countries will attempt to take advantage of this situation.
The refugees gathered at the borders are open to any attacks by the police and racist forces, especially in countries with openly anti-refugee, far-right governments.
The media can easily manipulate this chaos created by the EU governments and try to turn the ordinary people of Europe against refugees. We have seen many examples of this by the right-wing media. There are already reports of ‘angry refugee men forcing to break through borders’.
Hungary has started arresting refugees for illegally entering the country.
The suffering of the refugees continues and after escaping Assad soldiers, ISIS militants and US bombs, crossing dangerous borders and surviving deadly sea crossings the last thing the refugees need are borders with barbed wires and armed soldiers.
There is one conclusion from all of this: The refugee crisis is also a European wide political crisis as well as being a humanitarian one.
This crisis may affect the public mood of ordinary citizens in Europe who have been so far way ahead of their governments in terms of solidarity and support to refugees.
With the ongoing economic crisis, austerity and cuts in Europe, the working classes are facing housing crisis, unemployment and poverty. The right-wing, racist media and politicians are using the very same austerity measures they imposed on people as an excuse to make the hurting people to turn their backs on refugees.
Governments that never looked after the wellbeing of their own people are suddenly talking about ‘looking after our own’.
Right-wingers who never fought for housing rights are using the housing crisis as an excuse to spread anti-refugee propaganda.
The refugee numbers and the magnitude of the crisis will continue to grow. The EU leaders know this but have little interest in doing the right things.
It is our duty, not just for the benefit of the refugees but also for our own struggles to challenge right-wing/racist policies of our governments and argue that the solution to housing crisis is not keeping the refuges out.
In Ireland, there are more than 230,000 empty or half build units while more than 90,000 families are on the housing waiting list. The housing crisis was not any less before the refugees started arriving in Europe, nor will it be solved by not letting the refugees in.
Over the past 4 years 200,000 Irish people emigrated but the housing crisis kept growing. There are enough houses, empty land and money to solve the housing crisis. But the government is not interested in solving this problem. The land owners, NAMA and private property developers are sitting on top of these assets to manipulate the housing market.
The refugee crisis cannot be allowed to be a feeding ground for racist-rightwing politics to gain popularity. Any rise of the far-right in Europe using the racist, anti-refugee, anti-migrant, anti-Muslim propaganda will come back and hurt more the ordinary people, the working classes, in terms of democracy and our economic wellbeing.
Therefore, our fight for refugee solidarity is also a fight against right-wing, racist policies.
We must see the struggle for housing rights, against cuts in public services, and our solidarity with refugees as part of the same struggle.
We must expose the fake/false arguments and fight hard to make the refugee solidarity campaigns popular-mass movements.
We must expose the hypocrisies of our governments and remember that the EU states had a direct involvement in creating some of the worse refugee crises in the recent history.
Therefore, our call should be for EU to open its borders to refugees and put in place a fair and just system for re-settlement.
The difference between our tears for the drowned refugee boy Aylan and the tears our rulers is that, our tears are part of our political fight against cuts, austerity and closed borders. Theirs, on the other hand, is a public show, a deflection from their austerity measures and their inhumane response to refugee crisis.
We are not on the same boat with our rulers but we are with the refugees. We cannot allow our boat to sink.
The refugee crisis is a deeply political crisis and it requires a firm political response.
That response will come from ordinary people power and people power alone…
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