EUROPE IS SHUTTING ITS DOORS ON MIGRANTS, NUMBERS PROVE THAT

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified and extended.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations’ migration agency, has said in its latest release* that the number of migrants and refugees that entered Europe by sea routes has seen a drastic reduction this year. Data compiled till June 11 says 73,189 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 whereas the corresponding figure for January-June 11 was 211434, almost three times.

Deepening anti-migrant and refugee sentiments in the wake of terror attacks in many European countries and the US can be attributed to this drastic reduction second year in a row.

Britain has seen three terror attacks in last four months, in March, May and June in which dozens of people lost their lives. There have been two major terror attacks in France and one in Sweden in 2017.

The series of terror attacks in Europe that began with Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January 2015 has continued unabated in France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and other European countries. Same is the story of the US where San Bernardino attack in 2015 left 14 dead, Orlando nightclub terror attack in 2016 left 49 dead and other bombings, stabbing and vehicle attacks left many injured. And the sad truth is migrants and refugees and their dependents have been found involved in most of them.

Something that is reflecting in the drastically reduced number of refugees and migrants. 2015 was a crisis year when over a million refugees from civil war ravaged countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria. According to the European Union (EU) claims, 2015 saw 1,321,560 asylum claims.

The rush of migrants and refugees in 2015, said to the biggest wave of human crisis since the Second World War, created a pressure on many European countries, especially the smaller and economically weaker ones. Though the hostile signs were visible quite early with countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Czech Republic showing strong reservations, the European Commission settled down with a plan to distribute and relocate refugees among the European countries and set September 2017 as deadline keeping in line with the European spirit. But, so far, only 21000 asylum seekers have been relocated even if the EU is threatening legal action against the erring countries.

But coupled with terror incidents being attributed to migrants and refugees and thus a rising hostility, 2016 saw a steep decline with 364000 people seeking asylum in Europe in 2016. Many European countries erected fences to prevent migrants. The Balkan route was closed down. The EU made a deal with Turkey to monitor and block the Aegean Sea route, the main route taken by asylum seekers to reach Europe via Greece. Turkey that happened to be the gateway for Syrian migrants to entry in Europe sealed its border with Syria. Brexit in the UK in 2016 saw emergence of Theresa May, who is blamed by her rivals to have ‘poisonous propaganda about immigrants’.

2017, it seems going to bring it further down. The first six months of the year has just over 70000 asylum seekers in Europe by sea route and by this rate, we can say the number is not going to be more than 150000 and can even be substantially lower than this, given the surge of recent terror attacks in Europe by Islamic militants.

Emergence of right wing and far right in many European countries and governments hostile to migrants and refugees have further exacerbated the crisis. France’s far right politician Marine Le Pen has emerged as the main political opposition in the country with 34 per cent vote where far right was almost non-existent in France some years ago. She is a strong critic of immigration. Germany’s right wing termed asylum seekers ‘compost’. British PM Theresa May is also not interested in refugees welfare. And to cap all of them, US President Donald Trump is a strong anti-immigration voice and has been trying hard to stop migrants and refugees entering from the US. And he is a vocal supporter of Theresa May and Marine Le Pen.

©SantoshChaubey

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WASHING, KISSING FEET OF MUSLIM MIGRANTS: SYMBOLISM OF POPE FRANCIS’S GESTURE

It is one of those rare images that make profound policy statements – yet, will it change anything?

What Pope Francis did today could not have been better than it – and could not have come at a more opportune time than this.

The Pope chose the Holy Thursday rite to convey the message that we all so desperately need – that we all are same – in joy – in pain – that we all are brothers – be it the European residents – or the migrants from Asia and Africa that have created the biggest human crisis in the Europe since the World War II.

When he washed and kissed the feet of refugees, including Muslims, Christians and even Hindus, it was a strong counter-statement to those who are out there to exploit the xenophobic mindsets to score political mileage.

Remember the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany – who exploited the nationalist sentiments of Germans after the loss and humiliation of Germany in the World War I to create his brand of ultra-nationalism that ultimately gave the world the World War II and the Holocaust and millions dead across the continents!

Yes, it is not going to be the World War III – but again, human lives are at stake – and millions of them.

Thousands have been killed in the ongoing war theatres in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon and many other Asian, African and Central American countries.

And the war-torn nation states have left millions of displaced – desperate to find some shelter – desperate to find the next day of their lives.

And the exodus is coming mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

We talk of universal nature and values of the human rights.

We have a world body for it – the United Nations.

We have a global agency dedicated to look after the affairs of the refugees – the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

We have an International Criminal Court – we have an international police organization (Interpol) – and we have many strategic and trade bodies panning across the globe.

That directly tells we all are global citizens with similar rights to live and grow.

Now, when there are domestic war theaters forcing people out of their homes, of their cities, of their countries – isn’t it the responsibility of everyone – including those in Europe – to give them shelter – to give them a place to live – to preserve their right to live and grow?

Yes, these are utopian propositions – but have always been true – and will always be – even if the ground realities are starkly different.

When Pope Francis delivered his message of ‘brotherhood’ by embracing the Muslim refugees, he just did that.

It was a humane attempt to convey the message of seeing the God in everyone, be it a Christian or a Muslim, in the times of war rhetoric and increasing anti-migrant voices in the European establishments after the spate of terror attacks in European nations, especially France and Belgium.

Let’s hope sense prevails – because the millions – displaced from their houses – and trying to pick the thread of their existences in Europe – need it desperately.

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Image Courtesy: Vatican Radio’s Facebook Page (see the video here – https://www.facebook.com/VaticanRadioEnglish)

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

ANGELA MERKEL’S TIME: TIME’S ANGELA MERKEL

Editors of the Time Magazine have chosen Angela Merkel as the ‘Time Person of the Year 2015’ and we can easily gauge it why – in a year of great European Union (and Europe) crisis – first by Greece insolvency woes – and they by the incessant flux of refugees from war theatres like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and many more – and Angela Merkel led Germany – as Germany is perceived globally and in Europe – and thus Europe.

Germany is a major global power, the most important European power and Angela Merkel, its Chancellor who recently completed ten years in office, has made it among the elite few countries with global outreach in geopolitics.

Greece debt crisis and flow of refugees in Europe, the largest mass migration since the World War II, were the issues threatening to derail the whole world.

And Germany, the country that imposed on the world the Holocaust, acted as the leader to ensure the much needed balance. And the world sees behind it the pragmatic vision of Angela Merkel as the most instrumental element – if at all there is a solution – or at least the sense of relief, even if we are not sure about. And then there are other issues like sanctions against Russia for its overtures in Ukraine (and its annexation of Crimea) or its active support to Bashar al-Assad of Syria – Angela Merkel has prevailed in convincing the world leaders that why she matters.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/