If Europe fails on the question of refugees, then it won’t be the Europe we wished for

Having come together for the umpteenth time the European Union’s 28 nations have once more been unable to agree on a solution. Ahead of a European Commission proposal  Wednesday for a system to spread asylum-seekers across all E.U. countries.

Big problem the asylum seekers are facing is that each European leader answers to his or her own electorate, which sometimes makes broad E.U. deals very difficult. The status quo is good for countries that don’t like refugees and under current E.U. rules can deport asylum-seekers back to the first E.U. country they entered. That’s almost always Greece, Italy or Hungary, which are buckling under the influx.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has good reason to say

“If Europe fails on the question of refugees, then it won’t be the Europe we wished for”

From the 1950s we were dreaming of one big nation where people could live in freedom and go in freedom from one place to an other sharing different interests. The Schengen arrangements had to take away the boarders and give freedom to travel in the different states. The free movement of persons was a core part of the original Treaty of Rome and, from the early days of the European Economic Community, nationals of EEC member states could travel freely from one member state to another on production of their passports or national identity cards. Now by reimposing border controls some member states are cutting in the fragile union. They are giving a major blow to European unity and are creating a situation were we are going back to having to cue and waste time to pass boarders, bringing also an economic blow again.

With some nations far more generous to refugees than others the closing of the boarders gives the fast-growing smuggling networks more opportunities to ask more money. There are few limits to the sophistication of their efforts.

Lots of Europeans only see a danger of Islamisation for their regions whilst their attention is mainly fixed on the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees swarming into Europe, not noticing the potentially far more profound crisis which is unfolding in the countries of the Middle East that have borne the brunt of the world’s failure to resolve the Syrian war.

As long as the West is not going to do something to stop the deteriorating conditions in Syria and neighbouring countries thousands of Syrians shall be trying to escape the war and risk everything on perilous journeys to Europe. As the crisis digs deeper into its fifth year with no sign of a political solution in sight, despair is on the rise and hope is in short supply.

Strange that the Hungarians have forgotten the terrible situation when they were in danger of communism and many fled to West Europe. I remember how we at our home also took some Hungarian refugees and got to hear their broken souls. Many never returned to their homeland. Perhaps that also frightens people now, that those asylum seekers will come here in Europe to stay for ever. But do they not see that those who will like to stay shall also try to build up a new life over here?

Wile fighting has intensified in almost all Syrian governorates, only those who have means to leave the country are flooding Europe. Amidst the escalating violence, people have lost their livelihoods as well as their home. Those with lesser means, having no work, not much electricity and to face daily a shortage of water and food, are facing increasing challenges to find safety and protection in neighbouring countries, which, faced with overwhelming refugee numbers, insufficient international support and security concerns, have taken measures this year to stem the flow of refugees including restricting access or closer management of borders and introducing onerous and complex requirements for refugees to extend their stay.

For the 4.08 million refugees already in neighbouring countries the vast majority of whom live outside of formal camps hope is also dwindling as they sinker deeper into abject poverty.

We may not forget that all those people are victims who feel trapped in an impossible nightmare. Many have lost any hope they had left for the future.

Recent studies in Jordan and Lebanon have found a marked increase in refugee vulnerability amidst funding shortfalls for refugee programmes. A UNHCR assessment in Jordan, where more than 520,000 Syrians are living outside the country’s refugee camps, showed that 86 per cent of those in urban and rural areas are now living below the poverty line.

Having exhausted savings and other assets they once had, more than half of all refugee households there have high levels of debt and are taking increasingly extreme measures in order to cope. Many are eating less or sending family members including children out to beg.

A similar picture exists in Lebanon. The preliminary findings of a recent vulnerability study there found that 70 per cent of Syrian refugee households live far below the national poverty line up from 50 per cent in 2014. Here too, more refugees are buying food on credit, withdrawing children from school and resorting to begging.

Against this backdrop, the World Food Programme has had to cut 229,000 refugees in Jordan from its food assistance this month the latest in a series of reductions in food aid across the region this year due to severe funding shortfalls. {Worsening conditions inside Syria and the region fuel despair, driving thousands towards Europe}

On September the 8th there were 4,088,099 registered Syrian refugees in countries neighbouring Syria, including 1,938,999 in Turkey, 1,113,941 in Lebanon, 629,266 in Jordan, 249,463 in Iraq, 132,375 in Egypt and 24,055 in several countries in North Africa. Only 12 per cent of refugees across the region live in formal refugee camps. Pakistan is the second largest refugee-hosting country in the world, hosting around 1.5 million Afghan refugees, a figure that accounts for 10.5 per cent of the total global refugee population. Iran hosts around 950,000 Afghan refugees.

Those fleeing and using human traffickers often find horrible conditions, often fighting at sea to survive. Families pool their savings and borrow from friends to pay smugglers who pile them onto boats crossing the Mediterranean to Europe and the chance of a better life. Many deaths did not get the news but also happened at the same time as European countries were tightening border control and considering increasingly severe measures to stop people crossing. Hungary has completed a razor-wire fence against its border to Serbia, and Germany, Austria and Slovakia after two decades of open borders have temporary reinstated border controls. The Netherlands have reportedly also started carrying out spot-checks at its borders.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned that refugees could “find themselves moving around in legal limbo” and that the announcement of different border control measures by European states

“only underlines the urgency of establishing a comprehensive European response”. {Mediterranean: another weekend of Tragedy}

It is utopian to think the fighting in Syria and Iraq will be over soon. As long as the West does not interfere and tries with Russia to bring all parties together around the table, it can only worsen. This knowledge also frightens many Europeans, namely that most asylum seekers will stay here for a very long time.
Most won’t be going home any time soon, presenting the international community with a long-term crisis that it is ill-equipped to address and that could prove deeply destabilizing, for the region and the wider world.

António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says that the failure is first and foremost one of diplomacy. People are loosing interest to give money for the cause, because they notice they are putting money in a bag having a hole.

Guterres warns that millions could eventually end up without the help they need to stay alive.

Many family’s aid has been cut off by the United Nations after they sold food vouchers to pay for medical care. But what do have they to do to make sure a family member can stay alive?

Many families may also forget the education of their children. About 750,000 children are not attending school, their parents are idling away their productive years, and teens are coming of age without hope of ever finding full-time work.

All indicators are that the human costs of the Syria crisis will continue to grow in 2015 and 2016, with continuing population movements, and deepening vulnerabilities.

2011-2015 comparison for Syria’s internally displaced persons, refugees, death and not displaced persons

The overall planning assumptions for 2015 are that armed conflict and insecurity will continue inside Syria; that an effective overall peace agreement will not yet be achieved and implemented; and that refugees will continue to flee Syria and seek international protection, despite measures to restrict admission in some countries in the region.

The aid effort overall is increasingly underfunded. The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has spent more than $5.6 billion on housing, feeding and caring for Syrians since the conflict began, but that was less than half the amount it said was needed. Over halfway through this year, donors have contributed only 37 percent of the $4.5 billion the United Nations says is required to provide for the refugees in 2015.

The World Food Program has steadily reduced its monthly per-capita food allowance to $13.50 from $40 last year and will halt aid entirely next month to more than 200,000 of the neediest 1.6 million refugees, the agency said. {As tragedies shock Europe, a bigger refugee crisis looms in the Middle East}

The Europeans do have to show where their heart is and have to see that there is enough space to accommodate new citizens. Though the governors do have to work at a coherent asylum policy and have to show solidarity, agreeing to share the burden with other European countries, working together to find a solution for this 21st century human crisis.

We shall have to see what happens when the 120,000 people shall be spread across Europe, and some shall be sent to places they did not want to go to at first. Normally you should expect them to be happy to be located in a safe place, but they have gone such a far distance for making their dream to become a reality. Thousands of people also shall be sent to nations that do not want them. This will cause resentment on both sites.

English: Asylum seekers to Sweden 1984-2007 by...

Asylum seekers to Sweden 1984-2007 by area of origin Svenska: Asylsökande till Sverige 1984-2007 efter ursprungsområde (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The proposal to resettle many of the asylum seekers across 22 nations has brought criticism from some central and eastern European nations. The necessary pressure to take in some refugees against their will raises questions about the preparedness to be a full member of the European Union and not only wishing to be part of it to receive funds and not wanting to share the burdens.
Of the 28-nation bloc Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia voted against the measure, a rare note of discord for a body that usually operates by consensus on key matters of national sovereignty. Finland abstained.
Several countries also started having boarder controls again.  Border checks were imposed by Germany, Austria and Slovakia — a sharp reversal of the policies of open frontier that has become one of the hallmarks of E.U. integration. The Czech Republic boosted security forces at the border with Austria, but have not yet reintroduced border checks. Kafkan Belgium said it does not want to do boarder controls but yesterday started doing checks on the motorways to the neighbouring counties to see if there were no human traffickers on the roads.
Britain, Denmark and Ireland are exempt from plans that involve asylum and could opt out, but both Denmark and Ireland have said they will accept some of the relocated asylum-seekers.

The refugees themselves would not like less than the war coming to an end and finding peace in their home-country.

Probably refugees as well as Europe’s ministers sadly can sing

“I is a long way to Tipperary …”

It is a very very long way for finding a good solution for all.



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Asylum seekers by country of origin. 40,000 as...

Asylum seekers by country of origin. 40,000 asylum seekers 30,000 asylum seekers 20,000 asylum seekers 10,000 asylum seekers 0 asylum seekers (or no data) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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