This photo was taken on the Macedonian border today:
Herbert Mayrhofr tweeted this with a comment, "This is not the Europe that I want to live in".
I wholeheartedly agree. What kind of society is it that will threaten toddlers with police batons?
Many argue that Europe cannot afford to accommodate the number of "migrants" currently streaming in. But the countries of the EU are by-and-large rich countries. They can always find resources for the things that are politically important. My own country found the resources to fight wars in Libya and Afghanistan - but apparently is now so poor that it must repel with razor wire and tear gas the refugees from the war zones it has created. What appallingly skewed priorities.
Others say that the volume of migrants is so large that it "threatens their way of life". They point to books like this in support of their argument. But this report from the Guardian gives the lie to their scaremongering. The number of migrants that have arrived in the EU this year is 0.027% of the EU population. Please don't tell me the EU can't accommodate this, and indeed far more than this.
Still others say that these are just "welfare tourists" who come to sponge off generous European benefits systems. This view is particularly prevalent in France and the UK. But there is absolutely no evidence to support it. Firstly, 60-70% of these people are refugees fleeing war zones. They endure extraordinary hardships in the hope of getting to a country where they can be safe. And secondly, even economic migrants are mainly young skilled people who expect to work for their living. Those who bring older people and children with them expect to work to support those dependents.
International rules say that refugees should apply for asylum in the first safe country they travel to. But the countries nearest the conflict zones - such as Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt - are already bursting at the seams. Greece is struggling with a major fiscal crisis. And Italy's economy is flatlining. Where is the financial support that these countries will need if they are to accommodate large numbers of refugees? There is none. It is hardly surprising therefore that they help migrants to move on to richer countries. For the richer countries to turn refugees away on the grounds that they should have applied for asylum in the poorer countries, while denying those poorer countries the resources needed to resettle refugees, is an utter disgrace.
There are in reality only two reasons why EU countries say they can't accept migrants. They have tied themselves in a fiscal noose which prevents them from releasing the resources needed to resettle migrants, and they have convinced themselves that migrants are someone else's problem. Neither explanation is remotely credible, and both show a shocking disregard for the human rights of migrants. I suppose we should be thankful that we are not now leaving migrants to drown "pour encourager les autres" - though many still are dying en route to Europe. But denying them the basic means to live is no better.
The Special Rapporteur emphasises the utter futility of harsh methods aimed at deterring migration:“Building fences, using tear gas and other forms of violence against migrants and asylum seekers, detention, withholding access to basics such as shelter, food or water and using threatening language or hateful speech will not stop migrants from coming or trying to come to Europe,” he says. And he criticises remarks from politicians and media, including the UK's Prime Minister David Cameron:
“Talking about ‘flows’, ‘marauders’, and ‘swarms’ is an unsubtle way of dismissing the legitimacy of the asylum seekers and migrants’ claim to human rights, by creating images linking them to toxic waste or natural disasters. We are talking about men, women, children and even babies, who have faced traumatic experiences. These are people just like you and me, and none of us have the moral high ground to say that we would never do the same if we were in their shoes.”In treating our fellow human beings with such inhumanity, we make ourselves less than human. I am ashamed of my country's leaders.
But the inhumanity shown to these refugees has its origin in the inhumanity displayed to citizens of European countries. Unemployment in the EU is over 10% despite low rates in countries such as Germany and the UK. Youth unemployment is more than double that. These migrants are predominantly young, skilled people, many with children. Accommodating them could go some way towards solving Europe's demographic problems - falling birth rates and a growing proportion of elderly. But because EU policies prioritise balancing government budgets ahead of ending the scourge of unemployment, European countries - with the notable exceptions of Germany and Sweden - dare not accept migrants for fear of making the unemployment problem worse. We are not only behaving inhumanely towards people both outside and inside the EU, we are squandering the human capital on which our future prosperity depends. This is utter insanity.
Let's stop this now. Relax the destructive fiscal tightness that is wrecking economies all over Europe. Prioritise full employment over budgetary discipline. And let the wellbeing of people - including those who come to our countries as refugees and migrants - become our primary concern.