Author: Sydney Bowman
The massive exodus of migrants fleeing conflicted regions such as Syria has revealed a glaring shortage of unity and tolerance among some European nations, many of whom have met these refugees with hostility. Over 300,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea this year in search of asylum, and many will likely be met with hostility and scorn. This ongoing anti-migration sentiment is unacceptable in a continent that has struggled against xenophobia and discrimination for centuries; history should not repeat itself for one day longer.
It is time for the European Union (EU) to take a unifying stance on the crisis, distribute the refugees evenly and condemn those who are banishing migrants, initiating a universal and mandatory immigration policy in Europe.
As the crisis progressed, the EU merely stumbled instead of taking the necessary swift and decisive action in the midst of this crisis. This is likely due in part to countries like Hungary and Slovakia, who are shunning refugees by building fences and practicing religious discrimination. Slovakia has perhaps been the most vocal government to voice their severe anti-migration attitude, housing a protest in the capital city telling migrants to “go home.” This xenophobic sentiment flowed into Slovak news and advertising, reaffirming their rejection of non-Christians.
The problem is not just confined to Hungary and Slovakia. Other European countries, such as the Czech Republic and Romania, are shutting out migrants as well. In addition, Britain has only been allotted to accept 20,000 refugees over a five-year period, a number that is simply too low. Countries like Macedonia are enacting similar policies to Hungary’s, which recently proposed to build a fence on its border. Denmark, too, has done much to discourage recent immigration efforts, such as producing anti-migration advertisements and lowering migrant benefits.
In contrast, Germany, Austria and Italy have welcomed more migrants than they can bear. Although this is an honorable decision on the part of these countries, it is not sustainable for any region long term.
It is hypocritical for European countries to refuse migrants seeking better lives when the nations are part of the EU, an organization that champions democracy and solidarity.
Though the financial burden of this crisis is enormous, organizations like the EU should also consider maintaining a better quality of life for these displaced migrants, especially children. Child refugees now have zero access to education, healthcare and other important services.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), for example, recently recommended that child refugees be protected through “essential services” and given important welfare information and services. In addition, UNICEF will continue to deploy search and rescue operations in order to prevent the abuse of migrant children. UNICEF and other agencies such as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are struggling under pressure to meet the demands of the migrant crisis and have been rendered “financially broke.”
As of right now, the UN has a peacekeeping mission in Syria as well. If countries, including those in Europe, want to do their part to alleviate the pressure, they should be listening to the recommendations of these UN agencies as well as contributing meaningful monetary assistance. The success of these UN missions and recommendations will ultimately bring more world players into this crisis, facilitating greater cooperation.
The implementation of UN-related programs as well as financial assistance from countries are both essential for Europe to form a proper response. However, Europe should also view this crisis as an opportunity to come together with solidarity and unite around a common cause that requires the assistance of all involved members, not just a select few who will not be able to bear the burden in the long term.
Syndey Bowman is a sophomore Diplomacy and World Affairs major. She can be reached at [email protected]
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