28 countries of the European Union, having their own immigration laws, integration policy and historical experience, keep shifting responsibility to each other for refugees who escape war and hunger in the Middle East.
“Eastern Europe countries’ rhetoric is as follows: we are alien to Muslims, let us have a few hundred or thousands of Christians, or better no one, or even better - close the border and send everyone back,” told Gagik Grigorian, mediator in intercultural communication with the Fund "Otsalene" (Warsaw, Poland).
Attempts by such countries as Croatia, Serbia and Slovakia to close borders are justified, in fact economic and social conditions of stay of migrants in different EU countries vary. The policy of integration of refugees aimed at language learning, help in finding work and accommodation, creating a solid basis for life in the new reality, differs significantly in each member of the European Union.
The ambience in Europe in relation to migrants can be seen by the example of Poland, Grigorian says. The Poles express totally different opinions, "but the main keynote is the desire to shift the responsibility for refugees to the richer countries of the EU and fence off from this problem."
It is a paradox that Poland is facing Islamophobia when there are virtually no Muslims in the country. People have prejudices of "ISIS terrorists" arriving in Europe under the guise of refugees, parasites living on social benefits, import of Sharia to the old continent etc. Indeed, people may fear what they do not know, but it upsets when there is no desire to challenge stereotypes and to understand the problem more deeply, to move to a constructive dialogue," Gagik Grigorian says.
At the same time, in a number of the EU countries there is still no effective integration policy for those refugees who stay in the country for several years.
“Various refugees from around the world come to our fund and most of them want to go to the West, where social security is much higher. Isn’t it time for Poland, to think seriously about how to ensure these people with a decent life? Here we are not talking about to support refugees for years on the dole. It is necessary to give them support to feel themselves an equal part of society, and then they would be able to be completely active and to bring benefit of the country," Gagik says.
In the meantime, there is still the call for the EU to deal with the war in Syria and human traffickers in such transit countries as Libya and Turkey.
“It is realistic to persuade the EU to adopt the European Commission plan. It is necessary to develop a common unified plan fairly regulating the procedure of refugees’ registration throughout the European Union. Dublin II Regulation (a set of rules that establishes the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining of an application for international protection of third country nationals or stateless persons, - Ed.) which anticipated to send refugees to the first country of arrival, has been failed. Nevertheless, Europe is doomed to multiculturalism: there will be more refugees and economic migrants, hence a consensus on this issue shall be reached as soon as possible,” Grigorian considers.
Another question: human traffickers or smugglers. Checks of vehicles and controls on internal and external maritime and land borders have been put in place by many countries, but in Turkey and Libya there is no yet understanding how to effectively deal with them. Turkey has officially declared that it is undertaking measures against them, but in fact the situation does not change, the flow of thousands of refugees continues.
The route of Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan refugee goes through Turkey to the Greek islands. The Syrian arrives or in the Turkish Bodrum, Izmir or Cesme. After arrival at the station he meets a representative of the local criminal world, who has already identified the purpose of the foreigner’s visit, and for a specific amount proposes to cross the sea to the nearest Greek island - Lesbos, Kos, Chios or Samos.
The cost for the crossing varies from USD 1,000 up to USD 7,000 depending on the final destination. If these are only the Greek islands, the cost for the trip will amount up to USD 2,000 (up to USD 700 for children), while the way directly to Germany is more expensive given the difficulty of logistics and controls.
Now the most of the arrivals at the Greek islands decide to get to their destination (Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain) on their own. After arrival on the islands they continue their way by ferry to Athens, and from there - to the Greek-Macedonian border in Idomeni. After crossing the border refugees get to Belgrade and then to Serbian-Hungarian border in Roszke (the first EU border crossing checkpoint after Idomeni) and then follow to Budapest to set off on the road to Austria and Germany.
It is expected that before the end of the year more than 800,000 refugees will come to Germany, place of destination of most of refugees. The number of refugees coming to Dresden and Berlin increases every day. Thousands of people wait in the long lines in front of the State Service for Public Health and Social Affairs to apply for asylum in Germany.
An ordinary story
In the middle of August 23-year-old Akhmed came from Damask to Turkish Izmir, wherefrom he got off to the capital of Germany.
“In Izmir there are hundreds of smugglers, the whole mafia clan. The mafia boss is Turkish, he has followers who offer directly to everyone interested to sail over the channel and get to Hios island by boat. I paid USD 1,250 for the service and USD 1,000 more to get to Germany. There were 50 people on the boat while the limit is 20,” Akhmed tells.
By now he has been in Berlin for 8 days and is waiting for his turn for registration. Local volunteers give out food, beverages and clothes. Some people sleep on the street, others – in the tents close to the city center, and the rest were settled all round the hostels and local`s houses.
“Similar situation is observed almost at every center of primary registration in Germany”, the Iraqi Hasan says.
30-year-old Iraqi police officer in Baghdad was forced to flee from persecution of the government. The way to Europe Hasan went through the Greek island of Kalimnos two months ago.
“I have friends in Germany. Death is awaiting for me in Baghdad. I`ve been earning enough to live by my own. I don`t need any help from Germans. Just give me the chance to live,” Hasan says.
The stories of Akhmed and Hasan, as well as the stories of hundreds of thousands of other refugees, daily risking their lives, are no different: the scheme is the only one. “The ‘promised land’ – Europe – does not promise milk and honey rivers any more. Even though they were lucky to get to the old continent, still adaptation problems, language learning, job search could become the stumbling point on the way towards new European life,” Grigorian says.