“You have to understand, no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
The migration of people escaping conflict is no recent form of movement although recent years have triggered a significant increase. The Economist suggests that the War in Syria has displaced 8 million people, of which 4 million have had no other option but to leave the country entirely. Eritreans, governed by an oppressive, violent and corrupt government, are the second highest population entering Europe in the hopes of better realities. Post-Arab Spring Libya, Mali and Afghanistan are quick to follow on the list of countries that are also causing citizens to seek shelter elsewhere.
Meanwhile, a recent photo of a young, lifeless child whose name was Alan, was circulated worldwide . And this was it: the last straw of a situation gone too far.
Should it really have to take a photo of a drowned child to make us react to a situation that has been dire for years?
Bearing this in mind, I recently came across a passage during a lecture at the College that reminded me of what Europe stands for, and especially what it prides itself in:
The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail. – Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union
I read these words again and again and I tear up at the thought: this is Europe. A Europe of immense potential. These are values we have learned to recognize as part of our identity. Ones we have fought for and based our society on. Ones I connect deeply and truly with. But where are they on a daily basis? And why are they not reflected consistently in our laws, and in the execution of said legislation?
On September 9, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, gave his first State of the Union Speech. “This is first of all a matter of humanity and of human dignity. And for Europe it is also a matter of historical fairness”, he claimed.
|“Europeans should remember well that Europe is a continent where nearly everyone has at one time been a refugee. Our common history is marked by millions of Europeans fleeing from religious or political persecution, from war, dictatorship, or oppression.”|
He lists the numerous and certainly not finite times our ancestors have fled, seeking safety and a better quality of life, and he reiterates: “this is certainly an important and unprecedented number of refugees coming to Europe at the moment. […] They still represent just 0.11% of the total EU population. In Lebanon, refugees represent 25% of the population. And this in a country where people have only one fifth of the wealth we enjoy in the European Union.”
How dare we not ask ourselves how we can do more?
By no means am I considering this situation an easy task. We have barely recovered from the hardest economic recession in decades, and our political unity is unstable, to say the least. The war on terrorism is creating tensions amongst cultures and religions, both in Europe and across the globe, that we had hoped to never see again. Yet I still wonder why we are placing one human life beneath another?
The solution might be in closing negotiations (with regards to the monitoring of the movement of people in exchange of money) with the Eritrean government, as suggested reports from The Guardian have claimed. We could also facilitate the request for asylum by rendering it available in more EU member states other than first-entry countries. Or perhaps it will take all twenty-eight member states, and certainly a little more Union, to turn the situation around.
These are questions left unanswered and potential solutions left unexplored. The life counts are not improving, and neither is the situation. Who knows what more it will take before we recognize the value of human worth, of human life. For now, I am certain of one thing: my Europe doesn’t fear change, it embraces it. My Europe isn’t repelled by a challenge, it overcomes it. And although it may not seem this way, my Europe is (y)our Europe and sooner rather than later, we will learn to do more and to be more for you.