Recent tragedy in Austria underlines the case for solidarity

Written by Colin Mackay on 28 August 2015 in Opinion

The tragic deaths of 71 migrants has brought crisis to the heart of Europe. There has never been a greater need for member state solidarity.

The recent tragedy in Austria, where four children were among 71 migrants that died of asphyxiation, has turned a relatively remote migration challenge into a growing humanitarian crisis in the heart of Europe. 

As European commissioners Frans Timmermans and Dimitris Avramopoulos commented on Thursday, "It is happening right in front of us." Europe needs to act quickly. The two will visit some of the member states most deeply affected by the problem, beginning in Calais on Monday and Austria the following week.

To the commission's credit, they have been visible during this crisis and they have tabled a solid, reasoned response. It is also to the commission's credit that - unlike some - they have not focused on reintroducing internal border controls in the pretence that this will somehow help prevent such tragedies. 


Such moves will not discourage refugees; the motivation to leave their war-torn homes will not evaporate because they have to deal with a few extra frontiers in the relative safety of Europe. 

They will only provide succour to those countries who do not wish to be associated with such suffering.

If the commission's plan is to be truly effective, it demands solidarity among member states. Without solidarity, frontline countries will increasingly left to their own - limited - resources. They cannot and should not be expected to bear this burden on their own.

Europe needs to provide the resources that will allow these frontline countries to deal with the challenge, not leave them to their own devices. 

Member states that are point of entry for refugees and illegal migrants have to deal with a major burden; other countries surely have both a shared interest and a humanitarian duty to offer assistance. If ever there was a time to show the value of European solidarity, this is it. 

About the author

Colin Mackay is a Brussels-based writer and editorial consultant

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