Rachel Shabi is a journalist and author of Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands.
When talk turns, as it often does, to the issue of defining Europe’s identity and values, its handling of the current “migration crisis” has to be one of the core concerns.
For a continent that collectively holds dear such tenets as tolerance, freedom, and human rights, how does Europe square those with its current approach in dealing with mass migration?
We are facing the largest movement of refugees since the World War II.
The number of people forced to leave their homes rose to a record 60 million last year – with most of those people fleeing Syria’s horrific war or coming from counties such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Iraq
For some time now, the news has been of migrants making the most appalling and terrifying journeys and all too often dying in the process.
But the European response so far has been to vilify the people risking everything to get here, while fortifying borders: building more walls, erecting more fences, sending more militarised patrols, and raising the possibility of bombing the “death boats” that make those perilous journeys across the Mediterranean into Europe.
Overwhelmed by the crisis
There is no debate around the billions of euros spent building and guarding borders against migrants and refugees – no question that this money might be better allocated.
Sometimes it is politicians using those damning, demonising words – such as British Prime Minister David Cameron describing people trying to get to the UK from a migrant camp at Calais as a “swarm”
In reality, most refugees aren’t trying to get to Europe: There were 626,000 asylum applications across the EU’s 28 member states – and a collective population of 500 million – last year.
The UK has committed to take in 500 Syrian refugees, of the four million fleeing the war in that country.
Lebanon, meanwhile, has taken in over a million people from Syria, while Turkey, with around two million Syrian refugees, is hosting the highest numbers.
But in Europe, at a politics and policy level, discussions focus on the concern that being somehow more “lenient” to migrants – by absorbing more, say, or by creating safe, legal migration routes, so that people trying to get to Europe don’t end up dying, horribly and avoidably – will give electioneering ammunition to the far-right.
Dragged into hostility
Apparently, Europe is so troubled by an influx of dark-skinned foreigners, so enthralled by intolerant positions on migration, that liberal policies on the issue would actually be vote-losers.
But is this really where we want to go – allowing Europe’s racist far-right to drag us into an ever more hostile response to a humanitarian crisis? Are these the values we have decided should define us now?
For More: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/08/europe-turned-humanity-150810074912377.html