Europe is facing its biggest refugees influx since decades. The situation requires a common effort that is not possible with the current fragmented policies. No country can do it alone, and no country should refuse to do its part. It is crucial that all policies regarding refugees are implemented consistently and do not change in the short or medium term.
The scale of the problem has surprised many European countries and has an impact on the hearts and minds of European citizens. Not addressing these concerns or demonizing parties and politicians with an outspoken view on this issue will only lead to more polarisation. Together with our think-tank CPFE the ECPM wants to have a realistic, coherent and effective approach to this crisis. During our coming General Assembly the current crisis will be discussed with the members as well. It is important to look at the problem from the right perspective, taking into account facts, feelings and principles.
This is mainly a refugee crisis, not only a migration phenomenon. The majority of the refugees arriving in Greece and the Balkans come from conflict zones like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. All people on the move, coming from war scenarios, deserve that their human rights and dignity are respected, regardless of their legal status. When the rights of a person are not guaranteed by their own country, these person has no guaranteed rights so therefore he or she should at least have refugee or asylum-seeker status. For this reason the international community has a responsibility to protect his/ her rights. This principle of asylum goes beyond religion, race and ethnicity. It is a human right that cannot be politicised.
It is important to observe that over 80% of the world´s refugee population is hosted in developing or least developed countries and only a small percentage of it is coming to Europe. It is important to remember that our European countries have a responsibility to help the refugees according to international law and the convention of Human Rights. The legal status of refugees is defined in international treaties that are signed by all EU Member States which leads to obligations in this regard. We suggest to create a European code of conduct of treatment of refugees based on these obligations. It is especially necessary to create legal routes to Europe for the most vulnerable ones, (persecuted minorities such as Christians and Yazidi’s, women and children).
The situation of the refugees stranding in the Western Balkan countries demands European solutions that provide sufficient shelter and protect the human dignity of the people caught by new developments. The EU and its Member States should co-operate in the region with Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia. Greece urgently needs more support.
The EU and the border countries (including Greece) should together create 'safe havens' that provide sufficient shelter and deal with proper registration of the refugees. After the registration, a reasonable division of refugees to the EU Member States should be done. The safe havens would then end the need for the refugees to continue their dehumanising travelling as is happening now. This will also end the trafficking as traffickers are making a profit from people’s desperation to be in a safe place.
This flow of people will not stop until the root causes of their flight will be addressed. Therefore, it is necessary to stop the on-going conflicts and support all efforts, such as the Democratic Self-Administration (Rojava), to defeat ISIS and bring democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms to the region. Development cooperation policies should find ways to give people the opportunity to go back to their own countries when their life is not in danger any more.
We need to remember that the countries neighbouring the war in Syria, such as Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, must be supported more strongly (for example logistically), along with the funding required. It is important to observe that Turkey signed the international protocol for the refugees of 1967 only to accept refugees from Europe. Nevertheless accepted many refugees from Syria and Iraq far more than any EU Member State. EU Member States need to live up to the treaties they signed, in this case the Convention of Human Rights and the UN protocol for refugees.
Regardless of the fact that Turkey sheltered many refugees, EU should not be silent to the possible human rights abuse nor let itself be blackmailed by Turkey and (or) Serbia to become EU member. We firmly believe that the whole region and human rights have to play a central role in dealing with the refugee stream.
The European Commission should mobilize the civil protection agencies, migration and civil institutions and the civil society to help the neighbouring countries give an adequate reception, assistance and registration capacity. Those found in no need of international protection should be helped to return to their home countries, in full respect of their human rights.
The only way to solve this problem for the EU and all Member States is to implement a common strategy, based on responsibility, solidarity and trust.