Refugee crisis as a challenge to the European civilization

Author : Serhiy Zvihlyanych

16:50, 14 September 2015

Refugee crisis as a challenge to the European civilization

Author : Serhiy Zvihlyanych

Brussels is ready to allocate funds for refugees not to reach Europe, but even in the Middle East there are no comers to find a solution

16:50, 14 September 2015

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Europe faced another crisis. This time, it is not about economy, but society. The Old World is overrun with huge number of refugees. Last week, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced half a million people to have arrived from Africa and Middle East to Europe since the beginning of the year. Even such wealthy country as Germany appeared to be unready to the migration flow. All the more, Greece suffering from crisis or Hungary haven’t seen such a phenomena since the invasion of the Huns during the Great Migration period.

Let the numbers speak

The bulk of refugees were hosted by three countries: Greece, which got, according to Juncker, more than 200 thousand people, Hungary with 150 thousand, and Italy with 120 thousand of migrants.

The UN have recently presented data concerning migration to Europe by sea. So, since the start of 2015, more than 365 thousand people crossed the Mediterranean in order to reach Europe and ask for asylum. During the eight months, near 2,900 people died, trying to cross the sea on overcrowded boats.

Amount of refugees mostly trying to reach Germany has noticeably risen for the latest time. In July, 75 483 people crossed the Mediterranean, in August there was already 129 843. Greece is receiving twice more boat comers than Italy. According to the UN, crossing of one person from Turkey to Greece costs near € 1120. Refugees are a goldmine for organizers of their transit from Asia and Africa to the EU.

Near a half of all people have come from Syria. 14% come from Afghanistan, 8% from Eritrea, 4% from Nigeria, and 2% from Iraq. 72% of refugees are men, 13% - women, the rest are constituted by children.

After the UN forecasts, there are at least 850 thousand refugees to arrive to the EU by sea during 2015-2016 (400 thousand this year, and 450 thousand the next).

Juncker says that Europe mustn’t be afraid of refugees because lots of Europeans have been migrants in different periods. “They have escaped from religious and national oppression, from Fascism, from civil wars, from Communism. We must never forget, why it is so important to provide a refuge and secure the fundamental right for it,” the EC President stated.

Is Europe able to withstand such flow of the unexpected guests? Pictures of refugees’ camps resemble to effects of a hurricane – mountains of garbage, damaged properties, worsening of the crime situation. However, in the EU the main priority is given to humanity and solutions in favor of people.

Where do people escape from

As it was already mentioned, the refugees mainly come from such war-torn countries of Northern Africa and Western Asia as Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea. In the past, Libya was the African richest country in terms of income per capita. The people of this country could enjoy the enviable material benefits as free health care, free housing and free education. Despite the restrictions on the export of oil, in Syria under the leadership of the Party of the Arab Socialist Renaissance (Baas) there were political stability, social peace, high level of culture, education, public welfare. However, for several years the lives of ordinary citizens there turned into a hell. The cause is - civil wars.

The “Arab Spring” in 2011 divided Libya and Syria apart. In Libya, the rebels supported by the western countries overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, but the previous level of stability and prosperity was not reached. The country plunged into an abyss of internal conflict; there was a sharp collapse of the economy, its population turned into homeless refugees. Once Libya turned into chaos, its working-age population became leaving the country. The main way for the Libyans laid to Italy. Many people drowned while crossing the sea in overcrowded boats. The island of Lampedusa has become a real transit camp for refugees.

In Syria, the opposition also got to weapons and launched military actions against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Comparing to Libya, his conflict to a greater extent was triggered by religious differences. The opposition was supported again by the US and the EU. But the Assad’s regime in Syria appeared to be able to resist, not least owing to Russian support. But the civil war has been going on for four years, and there is no end in sight. More than 4 million people have left the country, partly hosted by Jordan, partly – by Turkey, but the living conditions in the camps of both countries are extremely poor. Such devastation has benefited extremist forces, such as “al-Qaeda”. And the “Islamic state”, emerged from nowhere, in a few months has become a formidable force completely destroying the usual life of people in the Middle East. The Islamists seized the north of Iraq, parts of Syria, and in the city of Raqqa they founded the capital. In addition to these countries, the ISIS and groups under its control also have joined the fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Nigeria, still conduct terrorist activities in several other countries. About 8 million people fell under the fanatics’ control. Thousands have already been executed.

In Nigeria, the group “Boko Haram” stepped up killing people, to stop the penetration of Western values. In the country’s north, life has become almost impossible. In Eritrea, the totalitarian regime has been waging war and applying the repression since 1993. Egypt cannot find peace and stability after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. This also applies to Afghanistan, where the Taliban do not allow the central government to stabilize the situation.

The refugees come to Europe mainly in three ways: most choose the way through Turkey, and from there - to the Greek islands. The second path leads from Libya via the island of Lampedusa or Sicily to Italy. The third lies through West Africa to Gibraltar and Spain.

Refugees themselves cannot cross the Mediterranean, they need transportation for it. It is kindly provided by the smugglers, basing in the Northern Africa. The smugglers’ stronghold is Saba airbase in the Libyan Desert. Once Saba has been Gaddafi’s army centre, but now it is controlled by two tribes with the aim of illegal profit. However, getting to Saba, the migrants do not end their hard path. Since they don’t have the money to pay to the boat owners, they have to earn it. Smugglers send refugees to work in various Libyan cities. A few weeks men work in construction, women are often forced into prostitution. The last phase is the most dangerous - a journey across the Mediterranean. Payment for this is about $ 2,000. The voyage on a faulty boat without food or water may last even a week. Thousands get to Europe, hundreds drown without seeing the shore.

Through Libya, the stream is well organized, because the central authorities have no control over vast territories in the east. Path through Gibraltar or the Bosporus is more complex, since the border guards in Turkey, Spain and Morocco suppress these flows. However, the Italians who care about the situation of refugees more than any other are ready to solve the problem by military means. Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti has stated that her country knows where the smugglers are basing, and Italy possesses the sufficient resources to perform military strikes on them. And several EU countries are ready to support this approach.

Europe divided

In the European Union, the split is brewing on the basis of how to distribute the flow of refugees. Eastern European countries oppose to the introduction of quotas. In Austria, there are calls for financial pressure to states which reject the principles of European solidarity and refuse to receive refugees. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that the problem of migrants is not a problem of the whole Europe; it’s the one of Germany. Refugees’ aim isn’t Hungary, it is Germany, and hence German authorities have to handle with them. “We are required to issue the refugees, we will issue them,” Orban stated.

Germany, France, and the Scandinavian countries call for a common solution. Germany remains the absolute EU leader in the number of immigrants. Angela Merkel said that the authorities are to speed up the asylum procedure and will allocate additional funds to help refugees. She also stressed that Germany alone cannot solve this problem and urged the other EU member states to take the same measures.

Earlier, the German government announced the allocation of additional € 6 billion for the needs of refugees. Under this plan, the country will build new refugee camps for about 150 thousand people. There will also be additional funding for programs for the study of language and cultural integration of migrants.

With submission of Italy, the European Commission wants to fight against smugglers, making business on the other side of the Mediterranean. However, it is hard to find the allies for this struggle in Africa - after the “Arab Spring”, region is feverish, and its governments are weak.

In addition, the EU is trying to unload the authorities of Italy, Malta, and Greece, which are the first to receive migrants. The refugee camps have beds not enough, and facilities even for food. New camps open in Germany, France, the money are funded for Central and Eastern Europe. However, in the Baltic States, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia authorities are reluctant to meet Brussels’ requests. Anti-migration sentiments are strong in Britain. In Jordan, where there are 1.2 million refugees from Syria, or in Turkey, where there are 1.8 million, they can only laugh over European debates about what to do with the tens of thousands of people.

The European Commission has even agreed to provide the financial assistance to Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon to accommodate refugees. Brussels is willing to give money in order for migrants not to reach Europe, however at the Middle East there are no much willing to share the burden with Europe.

The talk is about Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait. These affluent countries did not shelter any refugee. In Europe, politicians talk about it openly and with irritation. In the future, the situation is unlikely to change, because in the same Saudi Arabia the Syrians are considered as enemies.

Europe should rely only on its own forces. But it is not enough. Several of the UN humanitarian missions are on the verge of bankruptcy. At the same time, Europe cannot close its doors to immigrants, it has no moral right for it. Although the right-wing forces in the EU are quite ready to do it. Incidents of violence against migrants become more frequent. In Germany the unknown set fire to one of the dormitories, where refugees reside. In Greece, on the island of Lesbos migrants’ camp was thrown with “Molotov cocktails”. Refugees are attacked in Hungary. The EU leaders are in serious thoughts. The future of Europe itself depends on the successful solution of the refugee problem.

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