Fortress Europe

If Europes becomes impenetrable, the multitudes would inevitably turn East

Europe is besieged. Millions are on the march. They are fleeing to its shores escaping the beastiality of the nine odd civil wars raging across Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, southeast Turkey, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and northeast Nigeria. Syria and Libya have almost ceased to exist as Westphalian entities that cartography compre-hends them as. Half of the 23 million Syrians have been rendered homeless and are on the move seeking refuge. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has rendered another three million odd Iraqis refugees. Another million and a half have been displaced in Southern Sudan.

Greece and Italy, the first ports of call for refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean sea, may just be compelled to opt for more coercive measures in the near future as they too are swamped. As the interior ministers of the European Union nations got together in Brussels to wrap their arms around the conundrum, a poignant full-page open letter in the newspapers by a non- governmental organisa-tion, Médecins Sans Frontieres, underscored the enormity of the worst displacement crisis the world faces since the Second World War.

Urging the EU ministers to dismantle the fences and provide safe passage to the migrants, the first and the last paragraph of the letter are worth reproducing: “We send you this letter today, together with a life jacket belonging to one of the 15,000 people rescued at sea by the Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) since May. The poor quality life vest was the only security a man, woman or child had while trying to cross the sea to Europe. These jackets sometimes feature handwritten prayers for a safe passage or phone numbers of relatives and friends to be contacted in case the person wearing it does not make it. This is a reminder that people embarking on these journeys are fully aware of the risks they are undertaking, and of the sheer desperation motivating to put themselves and their families in so much danger”.

The letter ends with a heart-wrenching plea: “Europe is faced with an increasing number of people seeking assistance and protection. These people are only a small portion of the millions who are fleeing intolerable suffering. No matter the obstacles, they will continue to come. They have no other choice. The current policies are untenable in the face of the situation. The only way that Europe can prevent a worsening crisis on its territory is to replace the smugglers with a safe, legal and free alternative. We ask you to provide safe passage. Legal crossing of sea and land borders must be authorised for asylum seekers into and inside EU. All forms of legal avenues allowing refugees to reach Europe must be put in place urgently.

Efficient solutions to relocate asylum seekers from one member EU state to another must be found. Effective access to coherent asylum procedures and assistance should be provided at entry points, throughout Europe and along migratory routes. Swift registration and access to temporary protection should be provided upon arrival. Legal migration pathways must be created. Dignified reception conditions must be offered to all. Make this life vest redundant. Provide humane dignified and safe alternatives.”

The underlying message of the missive is all but clear. It instructs the leaders of the European powers to take responsibility for the immense human suffering their actions over the past decade have caused in the greater Middle East. When you sow the wind be prepared to reap the whirlwind. The responsi-bility for the current mass migration can be squarely laid at the doorstep of these eminences.

The situation in Iraq, Libya and Syria is again the result of a disastrous attempt by the US and its allies to reopen the settlement of the Middle East frozen in time post the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. If Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad were or are fiends, then those who have replaced them are not paragons of virtue. They are in fact even bigger ogres. The current situation in Yemen is again the consequence of the assault by Saudi Arabia, UAE and other frontline allies of the US in the Gulf region. The perennial problem in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has spawned the largest number of refugees in the world, again has an eternal Western and European dimension to it.

For the neo-conservatives of the 21st century, high on the success of the “end of history” with the disappearance of the iron curtain in Europe, the chickens have unfortunately come home to roost rather early in the day. That is not to say that 9/11 and all that followed in its aftermath should be condoned. The question that the “coalition of the willing”, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and thousand other acronyms, should ask themselves is, was there a smarter way of handling the situation? For the world is carrying the can for their Ramboism and the American electoral cycle may TRUMP up Bush 3.0. However there is no institutional introspection, much less a critique in mainstream Western media about the trigger of the current crisis.

For India the nightmare may have just about begun. If the fences in Europe keep becoming impenetrable by the day, the multitudes would inevitably be compelled to turn East. The events in the Spanish Enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco in 2005 are a menacing reminder. Imagine if a million people were to land up at the Wagah border demanding protection and asylum? And this may happen even without Pakistan unraveling.

The writer is a lawyer and a former Union minister.
The views expressed are personal. Twitter handle @manishtewari

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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