S.years eventy behind, the 1951 UN refugee convention established the rights of refugees to seek refuge and the obligations of states to protect them. Increasingly, it seems that much of Europe is choosing to mark the anniversary by breaking some of the fundamental principles of the convention.
So far this year, about 1,000 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, more than four times the death toll for the same period in 2020. Many will have been economic migrants. Others may have been fleeing the persecution. Increasingly, Europe does not care. They were all “irregular”. And all must be discouraged and deterred by a strategy of cruelty.
The latest tragedy occurred last week when at least 57 people were killed when a ship capsized in high winds off the Libyan coast. Maritime patrols, whether by Italian or European agencies, have been significantly reduced, increasing the likelihood of disasters of this kind. The owners of NGO rescue boats have been harassed in court and seen their boats seized. As Europe sits in their hands, thousands of desperate seafarers are being returned by Libyan security forces to detention centers where sexual violence, torture and abuse abound.
In Greece, large numbers of people are trapped in limbo, many in squalid overcrowded camps. After the devastating fire in the Moria camp on Lesbos last September, the European Commission launched a new “pact on migration and asylum”, emphasizing the need to balance border protection and humanitarian concerns. But there is still no agreement between EU member states on resettlement quotas and the processes that could defuse the crisis. Meanwhile deafening “sound cannons“They have been deployed to the Greek border with Turkey to expel migrants and a Trumpian steel wall has been erected to block the crossing points. Their next task may be to block thousands of Afghans fleeing the Taliban and currently passing through. Turkey.
There have been multiple accounts, from Greece and elsewhere, of refugees being expelled without their asylum claims being heard. Such a call “setbacks“It contravenes the 1951 convention. Politicians are also playing fast and loose with other principles signed 70 years ago. In northern Europe, the Social Democratic government of Denmark passed a law allowing asylum seekers to be relocated thousands of miles away. distance, while your applications are processed in a third country. goal of Mette Frederiksen, the Danish Prime Minister, is that no more asylum applications should be made in Denmark. His government is trying to forcibly return hundreds of refugees to Syria, a move that will likely be challenged in the European court of human rights. Britain has criminalized migrants arriving via irregular routes, hoping to force them to submit asylum claims elsewhere.
In an inexorable and unethical way, Europe is flouting a cruel “fortress” strategy based on brute force and deterrence. However, refugees represent only 0.6% of the EU population. The number of irregular migrants seeking to enter Europe is unmatched six years ago, when the Syrian civil war was raging and Angela Merkel insisted on the famous “U.S to create the“(” We can do it “). With effective leadership and solidarity between countries, a humane approach to a complex problem would be possible. But the political will is lacking. Since the migration crisis of 2015, the populist right has been allowed to dictate the terms of the debate. Frightened by the rise of Matteo Salvini, Viktor Orbán and Marine Le Pen, and, in Britain, the influence of Nigel Farage, leading politicians across the continent hardened their hearts, dimmed their consciences, and stopped giving a fair hearing to the possible refugees. . This lack of moral ambition betrays the spirit of the great humanitarian breakthrough achieved seven decades ago.