What the Refugee Crisis tells us about Western values! (Part II and End)

16/11/2015


What conditions do these migrants face in Europe?
Most European countries are signatories to the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention and are legally bound to uphold the principle of ‘non-refoulement’– which forbids the rendering of a true victim of persecution to his or her persecutor. European countries are ethically and legally bound to “not return” these fleeing people to a situation where their life is at risk.
Instead of embracing this principle, the consensus in the corridors of powers in Europe has been to put the fleeing Muslim refugees at risk by closing their borders. Article 33 of the UN Refugee Convention, 1951, enjoins states not to “expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his (or her) life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Many Europeans leaders, despite the sensitivity some of them have demonstrated towards the plight of the refugees, have decided to stand the application of this international law principle on its head.
The current refugee situation is now also a global crisis of responsibility and the UN system and all leaders of the world need to come together to ensure that those fleeing war and repression are treated in a safe, orderly and dignified way. As Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of Sweden – the largest per capita receiver of asylum seekers in Europe – told the General Assembly’s 70th session, “We should dramatically increase the number of resettlement places, expand legal avenues for migration, and base all our efforts on the principle of non-refoulement and the right to seek asylum. And it is extremely urgent that all countries of the European Union treat the people seeking refuge in the Union in a spirit of humanity, solidarity and shared responsibility.”
What the mirror is reflecting today is the utter failure of political leadership and collective political imagination in the face of native anxieties over possible demographic and cultural change. Germany was the only country that showed some signs of moral leadership by agreeing to suspend application of the Dublin Regulation for arriving Syrian refugees but that too was short-lived. It is the only country which has opened its doors and borders to all those searching for refuge and a safe haven and is now expecting to take in about 800,000 asylum seekers by the end of this year – more refugees than the 626,000 the entire European Union took in last year. Ordinary Germans in cities like Munich donated so much that the police had to ask them to stop because they were overwhelmed with the sheer volume of aid items.
But Europe’s status quo remains unfriendly to refugees. The problem today has assumed unmanageable proportions because Europe is struggling to bridge the huge gap between political realism and the need for a policy response embedded in empathy. While the EU made a collective resettlement commitment for 20,000 refugees, this adds up to only 10 per cent of the total Syrian refugee population, as the latter, according to UNHCR statistics, may be as large as 400,000.
Migrant detention centers across the continent, including in France, Greece, and Italy have all invited charges of abuse and neglect over the years. Many rights groups contend that a number of these detention centers violate Article III (PDF) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment.
“We used to think of migration as a human security issue: protecting people and providing assistance,” says Brookings Institution’s Senior Fellow Khalid Koser. “Now we clearly perceive—or misperceive—migration as a national security issue. And the risk of securitizing migration is that you risk legitimizing extraordinary responses.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that European Union states "must share the responsibility for refugees seeking asylum," arguing that failing them will betray the bloc's values.
At a news conference in Berlin on Monday, Merkel pressed once again for quotas to spread asylum-seekers out among more countries in the 28-nation grouping.
"If Europe fails on the question of refugees, this close connection with universal civil rights ... will be destroyed and it won't be the Europe we want," she said.
The hostile response of central and eastern European heads of states to the prospect of accepting Syrian refugees is emblematic of a wider problem of democracy and liberalism in these countries.
We currently stand before a page of European history characterised by the unacceptable violation of the most basic human rights. We are confronted by images that portray human beings - children, women, men, families - fleeing, in search of a better future. 
For years, this continuous massacre has been carrying on day after day. We cannot remain indifferent to the tragedy that is unfolding on our doorstep.
The crimes we now witness daily are an offence to all of humanity. Europe, tainted by currents of xenophobia and racism, has turned its back on its own values; to disregard the suffering of another human being is an act of violence.
These people - many families, even some with babies - are undertaking long and perilous journeys to flee situations of extreme poverty or war, tragedies that they want to leave behind. Before setting off, some of them suffered torture and harassment. 
If no one reacts to those pictures of little Aylan Kurdi, who drowned at sea, or if people fail to act collectively, then we can quite simply state, amid deafening silence, that humanity is dead.
The unacceptable human rights violations demonstrated in the photos of children that have been filling up newspaper pages and social media mirror the inadequacy and the failure of the measures put in place to help these people. 
If there was ever a moment when the entire architecture of modern international law has been so summarily put to disuse, then this is it. Now is the time for developing countries to take the lead in co-creating new approaches in international law, upholding existing guidelines for refugees while pushing for even more humane standards./.
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All comments [ 15 ]


John Smith 17/11/15 19:16

Much of that crisis can be laid at the feet of President Obama who has failed to use the power of the U.S. to stop rogue dictators like Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Gentle Moon 17/11/15 19:19

So pity world! Today, more than 19 million people have been forced to flee their home countries because of war, persecution, and oppression, and every day an estimated 42,500 more join them.

LawrenceSamuels 17/11/15 19:21

Now we can obviously see the hypocrisy of Western morals and values.

Jane smartnic 17/11/15 19:25

From North Africa to Iraq, people are fleeing war, extremism, and persecution. They are running away from the bloody consequences of the Western-backed democratic experiments.

yobro yobro 17/11/15 19:26

The U.S. administration just insists on a regime change in Syria and moralizes about the humanitarian catastrophe playing out before our eyes in North Africa and Southeastern Europe.

Love Peace 17/11/15 19:27

Opening borders of European and North American states to desperate people fleeing war and persecution would be a moral thing to do.

MaskOf Zero 17/11/15 19:28

Yeah, It would also correspond to the essential democratic values that Western political elites are frequently talking about.

Only Solidar 17/11/15 19:30

Why is it that the EU, Canada, and the U.S. are so reluctant to once again become a heaven to desperate civilians fleeing for their lives?

Pack Cassiopian 17/11/15 19:31

It is true that Europe was indeed the birthplace of Socrates, Michelangelo, Kant and Beethoven. It is also true that Europe was the birthplace of Fascism, Nazism, racism, and nationalism.

LawrenceSamuels 17/11/15 19:32

Over time, crises have shown us both the best and the worst the West has to offer. At present, we are seeing its darker shades.

Deck Hero14 17/11/15 19:33

The West is once again torn between its intellectual heritage of enlightenment and humanism on one side, and its religious and ethnic wars, its xenophobia, racism and nationalism, on the other.

Anthony Jones 21/11/15 23:31

The current refugee situation is now also a global crisis of responsibility

Thompson Catherine 21/11/15 23:33

We currently stand before a page of European history characterised by the unacceptable violation of the most basic human rights

Elizabeth Green 21/11/15 23:35

Now is the time for developing countries to take the lead in co-creating new approaches in international law involving human rights

Evans David 21/11/15 23:38

right, the reality demonstrates that now the West values are not right

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