A Helping Hand for Refugees

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Refugees not a threat, but an important asset for Europe

The Burma Times - 10 October 2015

The lifeless body of three-year old Aylan, a Syrian refugee that washed up on a beach in recent weeks, suddenly became the symbol of the awakening conscience of many European societies.

Right before the shocking pictures of Aylan went viral, many parts of the Western world, most notably Europe, were dominated by cruel, selfish and discriminative policies towards refugees that are impossible to reconcile with the spirit of humanity. Shameful remarks and disturbing practices targeting these downtrodden people had been commonplace before Aylan.

Some Central European countries, which pioneered this shameful attitude and that stood en route to the destination of the refugees, shocked the world with their outrageous behavior towards the refugees, which were regrettably reminiscent of the practices of tyrannies such as Hitler.

Immediately after Aylan's pictures were published around the world, a serious shift in tone towards the refugees became obvious in the Western world. Many media outlets, government members and politicians started condemning the poor treatment of refugees, reflecting this new sentiment.

The passage of refugees was facilitated and obstacles were removed to a large extent. Various countries said that they were ready to do their part in the acceptance of the refugees. The refugees and European societies grew closer as many people expressed their desire to host refugees in their homes.

Particularly Germany, while previously known for its rigid stance against refugees, in an admirable volte-face, announced that it would accept 800,000 or so refugees.

Regrettably, this positive picture didn't last long. The world was shocked by a video of a Hungarian camerawoman, Petra Laszlo, kicking a refugee girl and tripping another Syrian refugee man named Mohsen, who was carrying his seven-year old son Zaid.

1. A camerawoman named Petra Laszlo tripped up a young girl and then a Syrian man, Mohsen, carrying his 7-year-old son, Zaid, on the border of Hungary, which was later seen in the press. The young refugee girl kicked by Petra Laszlo.

2. The pictures of Petra Laszlo, released to the world community, do not represent the entirety of European society, but serve as significant evidence, showing the extent that hatred is prevalent among some people.

3. Hungarian police in an attempt to repel the refugees with tear gas. On the side, a refugee girl suffering the effects of tear gas.

As thousands of refugees fleeing war tried to pass through Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary to get to Germany and the North European countries, some Central European countries, in the words of the Guardian, 'turned ugly'.

According to the Guardian, Hungary sent armored vehicles to its border with Croatia and the Slovenian police sealed many crossings on its border with Croatia and stopped hundreds of Syrian and Afghan refugees, which included infants, toddlers, women and the elderly, by using 'pepper spray'.63

It was also reported that the number of Hungarian soldiers and police officers that tried to stop the refugees with pepper spray and water cannons on a border that had a 175 km, 4 m tall barbed wire fence, was actually higher than the number of the refugees.64

The Hungarian Parliament, after allowing the army to take action to stop the refugee influx, also allowed the use of plastic bullets and pepper spray against them if they tried to cross the border.

In other words, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his government were treating these people like an enemy army; these people were actually nothing but wretched refugees that just wished to pass through his country while trying to get to their destination. These people were in a state of complete desolation and exhaustion, without any drink and food, were fleeing from barrel bombs, from drowning at high seas, with their children and families. Naturally, this behavior sparked huge outcry.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic described Hungary's measures as 'incomprehensible' and said that sealing the border with Croatia would be the same as 'killing people'.65

Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic, criticized Hungary for being 'cruel' and 'acting in a non-European manner' and asked the EU to intervene. Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta also weighed in on the subject and said: "Barbed wires, dogs, police and guns… These remind me of the Europe of 1930s. Were we able to solve the refugee problem with these? No, we couldn't."66

The attempts to stop refugees on the border of Hungary with brutal methods will be remembered for a long time. However, these refugees are not terrorists, but miserable people who have escaped from the brutality.

Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, reminded Hungary of 200,000 Hungarians that sought refuge in Europe after WWII and said that Hungary should treat the Syrians the way they were treated back then.67

Ban Ki-Moon, the General Secretary of the UN, said that he was shocked at the way the refugees were being reated at the European countries' borders and said: "Every country has internal problems. But they still need to help refugees crossing through their lands. This is what international law requires. More importantly, humanity requires this."

It seems that 'practices required by humanity' is simply not amongst the top priorities of many EU countries. Inger Støjberg, Minister for Integration of Denmark, which was one of the first countries that objected to the plan of resettling 160,000 refugees across various European countries, said that they will not be a part of this plan and will not accept any refugees.68

At this point, there is a clear discrepancy between the compassionate and welcoming attitude of the majority of Europeans and most of the European administrations that act in a cruel, selfish and inhumane way reminiscent of the Dark Ages. It is vital that the European people elect leaders that will be their true representatives and that such representatives are sensitive to human rights and humanitarian values.

Given the fact that, despite its economic situation, Turkey welcomed more than two million refugees, the EU, with a population of over 500 million, can easily distribute a couple of million refugees across the continent in a controlled, simple and rational manner.

In fact, as Germany is getting ready to accept 800,000 refugees by itself; the only thing that needs to be done is helping these poor people that are trying to get there and facilitate their journey. And those administrations that refuse to do so should at least stop preventing them from transiting and causing them physical and mental harm.

The fact that Europe's 'employable' qualified youth population is dwindling by the day is a looming danger for Europe. Indeed, statistics reveal the fact if an urgent immigration boost doesn't come, the total population and workforce potential - especially in Germany - will fall dramatically by 2060.

It is important that EU countries take this important fact into consideration and see the refugees, the majority of whom are qualified, skilled, and university educated people, not as a problem, but as an opportunity and a blessing.

These people who take to the roads to save their lives, their honor, and to protect their children, leaving all that they have behind, are oppressed people willing to share even a piece of bread they have. None of them deserves such inhumane treatment.

 

Footnotes

63 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/19/refugees-croatia-hungary-borders-europe

64 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/hungary-declares-state-emergency-refugee-influx-150915081707010.html

65 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/19/refugees-croatia-hungary-borders-europe

66 http://www.euractiv.com.tr/abnin-gelecegi/article/multeci-krizinde-macaristanin-politikalarina-tepki-yagdi-032089

67 http://www.aljazeera.com.tr/haber/gordugunuz-muameleyi-gosterin

68 http://www.thelocal.dk/20150911/denmark-we-wont-take-any-of-the-160000-refugees

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