By Kamakshi Dadhwal
The horrific actions of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East have caused the largest migration of people Europe has seen in 70 years. Although the year began with a promise from most European Union (EU) members to shelter immigrants, the mounting influx of people has become a challenge for European countries, resulting in some of them closing off their borders completely. With Germany’s most recent decision to close its borders, after being the only country following an ‘open arms’ policy to refugees for the past nine months, the future looks rather grim for immigrants. They left their homes and risked crossing the Mediterranean Sea– in hope of an improved life–only to end up in limbo for survival. Clearly, Europe is tossing around responsibility when it should be collaborating in a systematic act of ushering stability to end the migrants’ suffering.
Around 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean in search of asylum since the beginning of 2015, and the number is predicted to reach 700,000 by the end of this year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR.) When figures are this high, one expects the world to prepare to provide assistance. Instead, countries are backing out of the pledges they first made in the United Nations General Assembly for a multiplicity of reasons. Since the Great Recession, the European economy hasn’t stabilized enough to support such an influx of people. Moreover, the number of refugees the UNHCR had first predicted had already been surpassed by May, leaving nations in charge of more people than they were equipped for. There is also a substantial and terrifying chance that ISIS members could enter Europe disguised as immigrants.
In addition to the common reasons, many EU countries have their specific explanations behind not accepting any more refugees. Italy and Greece fear riots because they don’t even have jobs to offer their own citizens, while countries like Slovakia have refused to accept anyone who is a non-Christian because they don’t have mosques, the BBC reported. Countries that readily accepted immigrants until now, like Germany, as opposed to those that only pledged to help a select number, like the United Kingdom, claim that they are carrying the whole burden of the immigration crisis. Their highest officials feel that countries like France and the UK are just waiting for other countries to soak up the influx, so that they don’t have to accept many immigrants, while still claiming that it was a joint EU effort. Although the reasons are valid, a look at the current life of the migrants should be enough to understand why this is the time to focus on saving them instead of worrying about who does it and how much it costs.
The most obvious threat to life has persisted in the Middle East, thanks to ISIS. Cities of historic and economic importance have been seized and wreaked havoc in. Citizens, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have been forced to fear death and poverty. To escape these conditions, about five million people have taken upon the quest to migrate across the Mediterranean Sea. They have boarded dinghies that charge approximately $1000 a person and don’t guarantee safe arrival or any welcoming arms in Europe. Many families are travelling with little children and hardly any money to feed them. Their only hope is the UNHCR process that permits migration to a country as a refugee and working status within the next nine months. “If European countries close their borders to these helpless people, what will become of them and their families? Death will be the only outcome and that is unfair, since it could have been prevented through a combined effort,” says UT student Victoria Maxedon. If our world upholds the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then it is plain to see that nobody should be forced to live a life of fear without any humanitarian aid.
Furthermore, European countries have more than enough reasons to help immigrants for self-interest. There have been many new member additions to the EU in the last few years. These countries have the chance to show that they are worthy of being a part of the EU and enjoy the status that comes with it. If they were to help in the migration crisis together, then it would certainly prove to the world that the EU is exactly the mark of solidarity it flaunts about. Yet another fact is that the population of Europe has been slowly aging, and countries are in dire need of manpower. Immigrants would more than willingly provide this manpower, if they were only to be accepted. Alarge intake of human resource could only be in Europe’s benefit in the long run, even if the short-term costs are high.
Granted, the balance of Europe’s population is being thrown off completely and resources and funding are diminishing fast. The duty of sheltering these refugees shouldn’t be on just a few members of the EU. However, closing off borders just to get the point across to other member nations isn’t necessarily putting pressure on them to accept more refugees, either.
The global community needs to join hands to support Europe monetarily and members of the European Union need to use the open border policy that they boast as a catalyst, rather than a deterrent, in the noble cause of protecting lives. Any rational person can tell that those refugees deserve a better future, unmarred by the life-threatening traumas of their present. Give them that, and they will bring nothing but long-term development to Europe.