Europeans are no longer willing to extend to refugees their expressed values of respect for “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and human rights.”
In an exemplification of one, Germany has decided to temporarily reinstate controls at the Austrian border and halt train traffic. The move highlights the alleged “pressure” on European countries by the influx of Syrian refugees flooding through their borders. It also effectively suspends Germany’s participation in the European Union’s borderless Schengen system.
Germany claims record numbers of refugees, mostly from Syria, have stretched its system to a breaking point and that “this step has become necessary.” Other EU members like Austria, the Czech Republic, Serbia and Hungary are making similar claims. Just like Germany, they have reportedly erected emergency border controls, breaching EU open borders agreement.
The new policy not to let fleeing refugees into the EU is in line with pitiless demands that the door be slammed in their faces. It means EU members have lost the voice of humanity in the refugee crisis, compromising the lives of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to Europe from parts of the Middle East and Africa made uninhabitable by war stoked or created by the meddling of Western governments led by the United States.
Worldwide, the number of refugees counted by the United Nations is nearly 60 million, a record going back more than 60 years. According to the International Organization of Migrants, more than 430,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, with thousands dying or going missing en route.
Many of those who are escaping the conflict in Syria have crossed the Mediterranean into southern Europe, transiting through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and then Hungary, with the goal of reaching Germany and beyond. Tens of thousands more are still rushing into Hungary before new emergency migrant laws take effect, making it illegal to enter the country without a visa.
As a result, bodies of drowned refugees washing up on Mediterranean shores have been increasing in recent days. The urgency now being expressed in secular and religious communities suggests that the international civil society, in particular the European Union, which has the means to act, should be more generous to refugees.
What morality demands is indisputable. On a continent with 11 million empty homes, adopting a mentality of extreme conservatism that says Europe must, for political and economic reasons, shut out the needy doesn’t sit well with international humanitarian law. The law says “regime change” refugees suffering hunger, illness, pain, anxiety and other dire conditions should be given every aid available, and those who live relatively comfortably should endure the mere discomfort of providing it.
Lest we forget, protecting lives and ensuring humane treatment is not the solution to Europe’s refugee nightmare. The ultimate solution is to stop the unhelpful war on Syria. While a number of Western nations have pushed for a military response, the intensification of fighting will only increase the flow of refugees. Unless a diplomatic solution comes soon another million Syrians will likely flee to Europe by the end of the year.