The escalating anti-refugee sentiment growing globally is one of the biggest issues facing mankind this century. This year alone, more than 1,000 individuals have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe’s shores to seek asylum. Many are driven to flee their homes by persecution and poverty, and they often make long, treacherous journeys across inhospitable regions. Some take to the risky seas in the pursuit of a better life. This is all despite waning assistance and increased border security from European governments that have previously provided safety and asylum, however, and is symbolic, to me, of them as a hopeful people. It demonstrates the sheer determination of these migrants to continuously attempt to flee testing situations regardless of the barriers formed against them. It, therefore, makes the perception with which they are repeatedly met with somewhat dehumanising.
Often, they are viewed with fear and are marginalised by societies who lack an awareness of some of the atrocities that they have faced. Resultantly, refugees are further shamed and traumatised given the commonly believed perception of them as an invading force. A perception soaked in misconceptions since many people lack ample knowledge over the ubiquity of refugees globally. For many of these migrants, Europe contributed in some way to the situations in which they are desperately fleeing. Whether historically, or through the military and economic policies of incumbent governments.
It is comprehensible that European citizens may have fears over their security, economy, and cultural values but it is also very worrying that these public fears are deemed more imperative than saving vulnerable human lives. Such a bleak view shows just how ‘retaining control over borders’ prevails over expending our humanitarian values.
Many countries, including Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, France and Britain are deporting refugees or offering financial incentives to them to return home. I view this as showing a lack of care as the fate of these returnees is not guaranteed to be a positive one. Neither does the brief halting of deportations when violence increases. These are people who are in essence being condemned to further atrocities, including death upon their returning.
Crucial ways of addressing this crisis involve investing in the countries neighbouring those which people are fleeing and the provision of support for the avoidance of further human rights violations. A frustrating thought, however, is that politicking leads to nothing concrete being done and indications of stagnation. The reception and identification centres proposed by the Italian government have proved fruitless in the European governments’ endeavour to resolve divisions over the refugee crisis. This being due to the Libyan government refusing to host foreign run migrant processing centres on its territory. Libya itself being a country deemed unsafe by both the EU and the UN. What this demonstrates though is a simulation of playing pass the parcel with human lives.
Migration will evidently remain a burning political issue in key European Union countries and the abovementioned bring to light the deteriorating state of the international political system; what Pope Francis labelled as ‘the globalisation of indifference’. Remarkably, this polarisation against refugees cannot bode well for their feelings of abandonment.
This is not to say that people in Europe or elsewhere for that matter are not welcoming of refugees, however. They have been greeted and welcomed with warmth and generosity by a lot of people. My belief is that it is exactly this sort of approach we must take if we are to think about the premises of a truly global world. Unification requires from us all an engagement of our global responsibility. Saving the lives of refugees and creating a global order that places humanity at its forefront should not be deemed or scoffed at as idealistic, especially where the means exist. Indeed, it is a complex crisis, but it is one that is manageable and not unsolvable as has so far been the common interpretation. Currently, very little is being done towards ending wars, poverty and persecution – the main drivers forcing people to seek asylum, but invoking values of global engagement and tolerance will prove valuable if we are to manage this crisis.