Refugee crisis: EU has turned back on its values

EU must tackle refugee crisis at its root and review all development policies within third countries, writes Ignazio Corrao.

By Ignazio Corrao

05 Oct 2015

We currently stand before a page of European history characterised by the unacceptable violation of the most basic human rights. We are confronted by images that portray human beings - children, women, men, families - fleeing, in search of a better future. 

For years, this continuous massacre has been carrying on day after day. We cannot remain indifferent to the tragedy that is unfolding on our doorstep.

The crimes we now witness daily are an offence to all of humanity. Europe, tainted by currents of xenophobia and racism, has turned its back on its own values; to disregard the suffering of another human being is an act of violence.


These people - many families, even some with babies - are undertaking long and perilous journeys to flee situations of extreme poverty or war, tragedies that they want to leave behind. Before setting off, some of them suffered torture and harassment. 

If no one reacts to those pictures of little Aylan Kurdi, who drowned at sea, or if people fail to act collectively, then we can quite simply state, amid deafening silence, that humanity is dead.

We need a different kind of Europe, not one made up of separate and egotistical governments. The time has come for us to decide where we stand. I hope Europe chooses to stand with those who must endanger themselves in hope of a better life, or even survival.

We no longer want to see the bodies of drowned children piled up at our borders, their lives blocked off by a wall, barbed-wire reflected in their eyes. 

The unacceptable human rights violations demonstrated in the photos of children that have been filling up newspaper pages and social media mirror the inadequacy and the failure of the measures put in place to help these people. 

Today, more than ever, we urgently need a structured political reply that will put an end to this carnage. What is happening is truly intolerable.

Managing migrant flows in the Mediterranean region requires the EU to come up with a holistic approach based on immediate, medium and long-term measures. 

From day one, our proposals were to implement a European search and rescue operation, to avoid further victims at sea; an equitable but mandatory distribution of quotas among the member states; the establishment of legal access routes and European humanitarian visas. 

We must also revise the Dublin regulation, and recognise that naval and land blockades are completely ineffective. This version of Europe only seems to exist for questions of money, banks and commercial interests.

However, I will always be convinced that fundamentally, the way forward is to review all development policies within third countries, as well as the rules on who should take advantage of these countries' resources.

Most importantly, we must tackle the problem at its root. Yet, this is practically never discussed, even though it would be the most crucial thing to plan for.

Developed countries' exploitation of Africa and its resources is the main cause of all this. Up to now, development aid has been hugely hypocritical. It's as if we burgled an apartment, then sent its owners flowers, just so they could thank us.

Following the carnage in Lampedusa earlier this year, politicians and institutions vowed to never let such a thing happen again. But each day, men, women and children continue to die. It's likely that next year, another million people will risk their lives to cross borders, and this will probably remain the case for many years to come. Things could even get worse.

To be clear, if Europe fails on the question of refugees, it will cease to be the Europe we had envisioned. We must defend people, not borders.

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