Hungary has closed its borders, and logically, the refugees are looking for alternative routes towards Germany via Croatia, Romania and then back into Hungary or through Slovenia. This has been all pretty predictable, including the erection of new fences and the closure of further border crossings in the region. We have no reason to be surprised since Mr Orbán announced well in advance that he was going to build a fence, no matter what.
Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia should have been much better prepared to host and shelter the refugees. It seems that leaders of those countries have been hoping for some miracle to happen or – and this is the most likely scenario – they were planning to play the Orbán trick: I don’t care where and how you go, but not through my country.
If no routes leading to Germany are left open, the refugees will pile up in front of the closed doors. Shipping refugees from the refugee camps to Greece or Italy is great business and those running it will not give it up just because their ”clients” can not reach their planned destinations. Therefore the number of refugees stranded in Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia will rapidly rise before eventually reaching a point of saturation. Many of these refugees have already spent years in camps and/or have lost relatives to war. On top of that, they have paid a lot of money to get on the road. Their desperation, impatience and anger is easy to understand.
So, what to do in this situation? In order to answer this question, let’s clarify some basic – though contradicting rights. People have the right to look for a better life, particularly if they are displaced from their homes as a result of war or natural catastrophe. Throughout history, people or groups of people have moved across the globe searching for fertile land, drinking water or jobs and prosperity, or fleeing from disaster. Other people, on the other hand, have the right to determine under what conditions they allow people from the outside to settle in their territory. These two basic rights often contradict each other and many wars have been fought in history because of that. People in the host country even have the right to reject every asylum seeker if this serves their best interest and satisfies their conscience and international treaties signed. What has changed though in history is that they definitely don’t have the right to treat refugees in a cruel and inhumane manner.
The EU must therefore:
- As fast as possible erect temporary shelters – in agreement with the host countries – where the refugees can be cared for and where asylum requests can be processed on the spot and within an acceptable time frame.
- Arrange for the efficient repatriation of refugees who are denied asylum.
- Must not spare money and must use all means at its disposal to contribute to ending the conflict in Syria and elsewhere. Most refugees would immediately return to their homeland if conditions would allow them.
- Must clarify its asylum policies and stick to them. It must provide the means required for the implementation of these policies and ensure EU-wide universal execution.
- Ostracize politicians who use the crisis to gain political advantage by whipping up nationalistic and xenophobic feelings and/or who neglect their duties to provide proper humanitarian support to the refugees.
This is not going to be cheap. But is has to be done quickly.
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