Strasbourg, 22.01.2016 - “Faced with an unprecedented displacement challenge, one would expect Europe to show a surge of solidarity. Unfortunately, what we see is not Europe’s friendliest face.
Slamming doors on men, women and children in need of protection? Is this really what Europe is about?
In the era of instant information, of constant media coverage, of videos and images spreading across the internet, nobody can pretend not to know why these refugees are on the move”, Anne Brasseur President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said.
During and after the Second World War, many Europeans were themselves on the run in search of refuge. It is not so long ago. How would we have felt if – forced to abandon everything we have to flee war and terror – we had met only closed doors?
While a few European countries have shown that a humane answer to this crisis is possible, they cannot be expected to welcome all refugees. But if Europe works together, each country contributing fairly according to its resources, this problem would not be insurmountable.
Europe’s lack of a common response is not only a great shame; it flouts international law. Providing shelter and support to those who are escaping war is not only our moral duty, it is our legal obligation.
Instead of joint and shared efforts, we see the domino effect of rejection rolling along Europe’s borders.
Border controls can now be found where only a year ago, they would have been unimaginable: between Sweden and Denmark, for the first time since the 1950s; then, between Denmark and Germany. Germany introduced controls at its border with Austria last September. Earlier this week, Austria temporarily suspended the Schengen agreement.
From Slovenia to ‘the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’, countries along the Western Balkans route are refusing access to many refugees and migrants seeking protection, allowing only certain nationalities to enter. Many have erected barriers along their southern borders, following Hungary’s earlier, more extensive fence building.
This will go down in the history books as Europe’s failure, a stain on the continent’s record of achievement.
Enough is enough: let us live up to our own values, rise above our national self-interest, and stand together to offer a helping hand to our neighbours who come to us in distress.