“Fortress Europe” would like us to believe these are economic migrants and not victims of war. It’s a delusional way of trying to stop the influx. Physically exhausted and psychologically traumatized, most of these people have been forced to flee US-led wars of aggression in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan. The scenario is not a one-off.
It’s a crisis of record proportions that is being met with callous indifference and dehumanizing responses. The crisis, described as Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two, involves hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflicts, trying to reach safety in Europe. For some, the journey reaches a fatal end. And the deaths come by land and sea.
Inspecting conditions of these war victims, European doctors say it reminds them of Second World War injuries they had previously seen only in medical textbooks: Ulcerous gunshot wounds, grenade splinters in arms, legs and feet that are cut to the bone. In their words, “Lots of war injuries that have not had a chance to heal during the long and stressful journeys to Europe. It’s a little like being in a military hospital.”
The UN Refugee Agency says the number of refugees crossing the Mediterranean this year has now exceeded 300,000. Nearly 2,400 people have also died so far this year trying to reach Europe by sea – tragedies that are avoidable. In a sense, “Fortress Europe” is steadily transforming into “Undertaker Europe”. But there is more to this story.
For those that are able to flee ravages of war and reach Europe alive, no warm welcome awaits. The UN says just about 1 percent of those refugees in its care find new homes in any given year, mostly because the circle of welcoming countries is very small. That too speaks volumes about Europe’s callous indifference. It also explains the desperation of the 340,000 asylum-seekers who have arrived at Europe’s none-too-welcoming gates so far this year. It’s neither democratic nor respectful of human dignity.
This is while international humanitarian law says all governments involved should provide comprehensive responses and act with humanity and in accordance with their international obligations. Building fences, using tear gas and other forms of violence against refugees, withholding access to basics such as shelter, food or water, and using threatening language or hateful speech will not stop men, women, children and even babies from fleeing conflicts and trying to come to Europe.
The same law says, “You break it, you own it.” The United States and its European allies have left quite a mess behind in the Middle East and North Africa. In plain words, from Libya to Afghanistan, everything Washington and its NATO allies have done, have gone terribly wrong. The ongoing refugee crisis in “Fortress Europe” is just one the earth-shattering consequences of their perpetual wars and planetary military adventures.
Lest we forget, the real crisis is denial: Of inaction by Western governments to meet the immediate urgency of stopping their destructive wars in Muslim heartland, and to recognize an inevitable influx that requires immediate response, respectful of human dignity – in Europe and in the affected countries.