Europe faces migration crisis
PERHAPS the most significant crisis facing Europe since last two years is the massive influx of migrants, mostly from Middle East, undertaking a perilous journey on unsafe boats and desperately trying to reach EU countries for a safer life. For them it is the only way out to escape persecution from autocratic regimes and find a better future for them and their family. From January to June 2015,roughly 245000 migrants entered Europe but from July to December 2015, this number touched over one million indicating the nature and extent of crisis.Initially, the host governments welcomed them with open heart and provided them all the possible help but it seems that now the tipping point has reached.
Weary of astronomical number of migrants, reaching European shores, the hosts are now finding ways and means to curtail this number by all possible means, which, inter-alia, include confiscating migrants valuable possessions. Denmark, Sweden and Holland initiated this extreme measure. Some east European countries like Poland and Hungry have flatly refused entry to migrants and asylum seekers. On March 08 2016, Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia closed its borders for migrants. In some cases, deportations have started from some of the European countries on the pretext of so-called criminal activities like minor street crimes. So the scene is now changing and with fast changing scenario the time when Europe closes its borders may come any time soon.
The United Nations refugee agency said on March 09 that proposal to send back refugees’ en masse from the European Union to Turkey would, contravene their right to protection under European and international law. Turkey has offered on to take back all migrants who cross into Europe from its soil in return for more money, faster EU membership talks and quicker visa-free travel for Turks. EU leaders have accepted the offer in principal.
“The collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention of Human Rights” said Vincent Cochetel, Europe regional director of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.“Any agreement that may result in a blanket return of foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law and is not consistent with international law”. Cochetel said nine in 10 of those arriving in Europe each day were Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis “fleeing for their life” who deserved international protection.Europe’s commitment to reset the 20,000 refugees over two years, on a voluntary basis, remains “very low” , he said.
Europe had not even fulfilled its agreement last September to relocate 66,000 refugees from Greece, redistributing only 600 to date within the 28 nations bloc. Turkey is hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees, the most worldwide and has “done more that all the EU countries together”, he said. But its acceptance rate for refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran is “very low”, at about 3 percent. Before an EU summit on March 17, “supplementary guarantees” must he put in place so those sent back to Turkey will have their asylum request reviewed, he said. Children’s rights to claim international protection must be guaranteed. Children should not to be returned if they face risk including detentions, forced recruitment, trafficking, or exploitation”.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in May 2015 that Europe must do more to help migrants, calling for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean sea to be “further strengthened”. Following Ban’s comments, the EUs border agency announced it would expand its search and rescue operation to help cope with the upsurge in migrants trying to reach Europe. The move constitutes a doubling or tripling of the resources deployed up to now and comes a month after EU leaders agreed to increase the operation’s monthly funding from three million euros ($3.3m) to nine million euros.
Amnesty International hit out recently at Europe’ shamful” response, saying most EU countries had “simply decided that the protection of their borders is more important that the protection of the rights of refugees. Vienna has come under fire for organising talks, not least from Greece, and for imposing daily limits on the number of migrants who can apply for asylum in Austria or transit to other countries. But despite sharp criticism from Germany, Vienna says that it has no choice because the EU has failed to get off the ground any effective common strategy. An EU scheme agreed in September to relocate 160,000 people among EU nations under mandatory quotes, has seen just 598 relocated so far, with some members of the bloc opposing the plan and filing legal challenges.
As a result of the EUs failures, countries throughout the western Balkans have begun unilaterally to impose restrictions sparked by Austria’s much criticized daily migrant limits. Macedonia has closed its frontier to Afghans and introduced more stringent document checks for Syrians and Iraqis seeking to travel to north earn and Western Europe. Migration has thus become a divisive issue for Europe as it has dented the unity of the bloc, at least on this thorny subject. So far no collective policy responses have come from EU as each country is trying to limit the in-take of the refugees. However one most important thing they all need to remember is that they are not dealing with a commodity but they are dealing with human being in whose body the colour of blood is not different than theirs and they are the creation of the same God, Who created them. — The writer is former consultant, IOM&ILO.