Blocking situation, the hope of migrants disenchanted by a folded-in Europe

A recent agreement between the European Union (EU) and Erdogan's government allows migrants who have arrived on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios to be returned to Turkey. While a distribution of migrants was planned within the EU, European countries are closing their borders or refusing to welcome this flow of refugees. These deadlock situations raise questions related to respect for refugees or migrants. For associations and volunteers, this complicates the help to be provided, to the point of being painful or sometimes gruesome. Is the persecution pursuing refugees on their way and in Europe?

According to the 2015 European agreements, France was to welcome 30 refugees over two years “relocated” from Greece or Italy, only 62 arrived. The “shantytown” camps were partially dismantled in Calais, or completely in Grande-Synthe. The mayor of Grande-Synthe opened another camp meeting international standards, helped by MSF. The government cynically tried to shut it down on the pretext that it did not meet security standards. Prevented from going any further, they wander in deplorable conditions without there being a real solution for the migrants. Germany, which planned to host 800 refugees in 000, has restricted arrivals since the start of the year. East of Europe, the Balkan route closes at the same time as the borders. Most recently, Macedonia closed its border with Greece. An improvised camp has been established in Idomeni. At least 12 refugees, including many families, have been piling up for days, in squalid conditions, in this camp and its surroundings. Panagiotis Kouroublis, Greek Minister of the Interior, declared during a visit to this camp: "I do not hesitate to say that (Idomeni) is the Dachau of modern times, the result of the logic of closed borders". The migrants' journey turns to ordeal. It is made up of unanswered questions, last minute changes, even indifference, affronts or humiliations.

The work of volunteers, associations or churches is made difficult by this situation. The dismantling of camps in France is causing difficulties in helping these people. The "Help Refugees" association warns about the disappearance of 129 unaccompanied minor refugees, since the dismantling of the Calais “jungle” in March. In Europe, more than 10 unaccompanied migrant children have reportedly disappeared. How to help these migrants when they cannot have a safe, fixed place? How to follow them and find a welcome solution worthy of the name, while the rules are changing? From this precariousness, these uncertainties arise from interethnic, religious violence or against isolated women. The inhabitants of the Aegean Islands (Greece) have been selected for the Nobel Peace Prize as a reward for helping refugees. On the island of Lesbos inhabitants and volunteers are cited as an example by the media. So how to understand that a camp run by volunteers is forced to close, following the latest agreement between Europe and Turkey? That of Moria has even become a detention camp, a prison where it is forbidden to go out or enter. Demonstrators mobilized from the first returns to Turkey of those who risked their lives for a little hope. On a sign "Refugees ♥ Welcome - No one is illegal" "Bienvenue ♥ Réfugiés No one is illegal"

Seen from Berlin, the plan with Turkey is to “replace illegal immigration with legal immigration”. But this Europe-Turkey agreement raises legal questions of respect for the rights of migrants, refugees or the rules for applying for asylum. The objective was to close the floodgates and the crossing from Turkey to Greece and therefore the influx to Europe. Anyone who arrives after March 20 can potentially be returned to Turkey, accompanied by police. Can these coming from the 28 European countries replace the volunteers? This agreement did not stop the determination of migrants to cross the Aegean Sea, at the risk of their lives.

Has Europe forgotten that these people are fleeing war, death or persecution in the hope of a peaceful life, while waiting for a host country where they can live with their families? Have we forgotten our own history, the departures on the roads, the deportations, the flight from death… during the Second World War?

“During his visit, Pope Francis will emphasize the crucial role of local and international solidarity in coming to the aid of the most vulnerable in the context of the refugee crisis. He must also speak frankly about the violations, fear and anguish experienced by thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in uncertainty in Lesvos and elsewhere in Greece, ”said Gauri van Gulik, deputy director of the Europe program. at Amnesty International.

Announced for this Saturday April 16, 2016, the visit of Pope Francis to the island of Lesvos, accompanied by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Athens Hyeronimos will be an opportunity "to express closeness and solidarity to both refugees, citizens of Lesvos and to all the Greek people, so generous in their welcome ”. If this trip is not political, the Vatican regrets that we have not found a solution to the suffering of so many people. The humanitarian situation is serious and grave, admitted Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, in front of journalists this Thursday, April 14, and there is still a lot to do to find more adequate solutions, and in the respect for human dignity.

Europe must seek a solution to this migratory crisis but not forget the values ​​that have united it. " Of course, it is necessary to govern the phenomenon of migration and manage emergency situations, but without ever losing sight of the human dignity of migrants, people in the flesh who flee despair and who often have lost everything. », Expressed Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna (Austria), hoping that Christian Europe will regain the heart it seems to have lost.

Nathanael Bechdolff

Photo credit: CC FlickR @malachybrowne

On the same subject :

- From Universalism in the Bible to Welcoming the Stranger. Of the Urgency to be a witness.
- Calais Jungle: a disputed dismantling
- Migrant crisis: Europe, the last scene of a dramatic film

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