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Refugees crisis: The EU must stand up and be counted


RefugeesDevolution is the founding principle of the European Union, EU. One of the tasks placed on the EU as an amalgamation is that it would create and implement laws and regulations that integrate its present 28-member states.

Above and beyond, in any social order, social integration is the language of stability. That said, the present instability experienced across the borders in Europe is a shade of horror stories. Europe, as a continent, in this present time and day, has witnessed its worst refugee crisis ever since the World War 2— a war Adolf Hitler had said was a historical revision on a unique scale imposed on us by the Creator.

It is no longer news that Syria is in sixes and sevens and Syrians are scattered across borders. The ripple effect on the people and their economy is quite devastating. In any war, there are winners and losers. A case in point is the global depression of the 1930s. After the Great Depression, some countries were identified as “winners” of the war while others as “losers.” Today, the rest is history.

Suffice it to give or take, the real cause of the Syrian war, I believe by now, has been adequately understood. Imagine, several persons in exile are fleeing and have fled their ancestral homes for better working conditions and safety of lives. For instance, many Syrians have fled their familial homes because of violence in the hands of the Syrian government and death threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), well known as ISIS). It goes to show the decadence in the development of people.

This unfortunate development is the latest breed to immigration challenges across Europe. A lot of illegal immigrants especially refugees have constituted another threat to sheltering countries. This hostile situation has made the EU look to Turkey for help. This was what actually brought about the EU-Turkey pact.

Conversely, the six-year-long Syrian conflict has turned out to be the biggest driver of immigration, followed by the violence in Afghanistan and Iraq. On the table of migrant crises, countries are ranked based on the degree of catastrophe and tragedy. Syria is first with 48 per cent, followed by Afghanistan and Iraq with 29 and 12 per cents respectively. According to the United Nations records, as of August 2015, human casualties recorded from the Syrian war had climbed to 250, 000 and is still counting. Sadly, this war doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.

In the last quarter of 2015, a host of countries welcomed refugees in their thousands and millions. Yet, some countries of the world didn’t subscribe to it. Notwithstanding, such countries like Canada, Sweden, Germany, etc. were all on the list of refugee-embracers or accepters. Sweden, a nation of 9.8 million people has about 1.6 million immigrants (16 per cent of Sweden’s population). Traditionally based on her antecedents, Sweden has been viewed as welcoming to refugees. In the 1970 and 1980’s one-to-one, many European nations such as Iran, Denmark, Turkey benefitted from Sweden’s friendly immigration policy. In 2015 alone, approximately 163, 000 individuals applied for asylum in Sweden. Likewise, according to the International Organisation for Migration, some 200, 000 Afghans applied for refugee status in European countries last year.

In the vintage of 2015, Germany opened its loving arms to more than a million refugees. Then, the vast majority of time-honoured refugees were from the troubled countries of Syria and Iraq. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel has received a huge global applause for her show of sweet heart and sympathy towards refugees.

Pathetically, in the past few months, gruesome murders and assaults have taken place in several asylum centres. Neighbourhoods are in an uptick of daily violence and extremism. The territorial integrity and sovereignty of these host communities are now threatened. These are growing security concerns in many of these host countries. Hence, why many host citizens and institutions are queuing behind a pause to accepting applications for asylum. Should we accuse them of a moral wrong?

Friends, in any difficulty, there is an opportunity. Ramy Alasheq, a Syrian-Palestinian refugee and perhaps, an optimist has maximised the opportunity in his difficulty. Tunji Ajibade’s recent intervention titled: “We’re permitted to ‘giraffe’ Merkel’s homework,” explained Alasheq’s personality coupled with his creativity as an optimist. Indeed, imitating the right thing is right.
Alasheq has asylum in Cologne where he lives with a host family. In this same Cologne and several other cities, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants have been tagged with sexual assaults on German women. This ugly development in host Germany have given room for lovelorn relationships. The Germans are really accosting the refugees. Vitriol is on the rise between the Germans and the refugees.

Last year alone, 159 attacks of vandalism on refugee centres across Germany were recorded. This year so far, no fewer than 63 attacks on refugees, 53 of which were arson attacks, have been recorded by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, an organisation that tracks racially motivated violence.

In recent weeks, Angela Merkel’s well-celebrated “Refugees-are-welcome” policy has been questioned by her staunch supporters and Germany’s neighbours in the fiery face of sexual assaults, arson attacks, violence and insecurity. Right-wing anti-immigration groups such as Pegida and the Eurosceptic Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party are now gaining some momentum because the rhetoric within Germany is becoming vitriolic. In recent months also, right-wing demonstrations in German neighbourhoods have increased.

Loay Alhamedi, a 22-year-old Syrian refugee was a victim of the increasing verbal assaults, threats and violence ongoing in Germany. It is appropriate here to paraphrase the emotional words of Alhamedi, a poster-boy for the victims of German assault. He said: “I wish I could speak to those attackers who had made refugees their point of attack… Syrians are not fleeing their homeland by choice, but we have to flee for survival… I don’t know if it’s possible but I wish I could make the refugee-attackers understand why Syrians are coming.”

Alhamedi, narrating his real ordeal, also recalled, saying: “I was waiting for the train one day, and I was confronted by a young man and woman who verbally assaulted me. They came to me threatening me, yelling in my face. They had told me, I came here to steal their money and I started crying. I told them, I didn’t come here for money.”

Here is Alhamedi who spent 6, 000 Euros to get to Germany. Intuitively, one may say Alhamedi and Alasheq are not likely sexual assaulters but will the disgruntled Germans care anymore?

On April 7, 2016, Aljazeera reported that more than 300 staff at a cement factory east of Damascus were kidnapped by the ISIL. The other day, in the Syrian town of Madaya, human beings were eating plants and leaves for survival. These are Internally Displaced People, IDPs- very poor people- the majority- who cannot afford to flee to Europe. Some have died of hunger, suffered from “unknown” diseases and countless structures obliterated. Apparently, home is not a safe haven for Alhamedi in spite of his psychological trauma. Hence, the EU and several constituted authorities must rise to stem these tides to avoid further calamity.

In the dictum of Mervyn Peake, a British novelist: “Home is where I was safe and Home is what I fled from.” The corollary to this dictum contradicts the ordeal of several refugees.

Elsewhere, in another gory occasion, refugees were tear-gassed at the Macedonia-Greece border. People exposed suffered from respiratory problems, facial injuries and slight injuries from the plastic bullets.

This refugee crisis across Europe seems to be getting out of hand, I must say. The EU has warned that, it would only accept war refugees from Syria and Iraq, as well as those from other countries who are eligible for asylum. If the EU stand is anything to go by, the crisis may linger but I think it is the right way to go. Sometimes, stern decisions solve tough problems but when one is solving a problem, one should not create another.

In ensuring stability across Europe, social security must be guaranteed even before economic benefits. Not the attendant vulnerability we see and hear. As part of the measures taken by the EU to end this ‘Super’ Refugee crisis, a pact has been signed with Turkey. It is called the EU-Turkey deal. Needless to say, Turkey is a country with poor human rights and democratic records. Under President Erdogan, it is even worse. With such statuette, Turkey may not be able to meet the necessary and sufficient conditions needed ordinarily to be registered as a member state of the EU. The EU has standards and principles, of course. But, it is trying to compromise its standards with the EU-Turkey pact.

Though, the foremost intention of the deal is to stop the flow of illegal migration. The deal guarantees that Turkey would accommodate all illegal migrants who entered Greece through irregular and unofficial routes. This deal, I must say is too risky for the EU considering Turkey’s antecedents. As part of the deal, Turkey is entitled to more EU money (Euros), Visa-free travels and progress in its membership negotiation. However fishy, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President has emphasized that the deal would not be implemented until the EU fulfils its own part of the deal. Though, it looks like a normal thing under a contractual bond but the EU needs to be cautious. Here are the questions we need to ask ourselves: Is it the safety of the immigrants that is paramount to Erdogan or the “juicy” contract? Why has Turkey forgotten in a hurry their erstwhile predicament wherein Sweden had to come to their rescue?
Yes, the EU’s chronic headache is to fix the crisis in Europe but the EU must be careful while looking for ‘foreign’ help. It is very important in forging long-term stability.
• Ayomikun is a fresh graduate of electrical/electronics engineering from the University of Technology, Akure.

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