By Suad Skenderi, executive director and author of the academic medium Romalitico Roma and writer for the EST.

The topic of migration is one of the most hotly debated issues in Europe, especially since the Syrian crisis that started in 2011. The influx of Syrians in Europe has tested the level of democracy, as well as the basic principles and values of Europe. The flow of Syrians entering European soil started slowly as they, among other asylum seekers, sought to find better opportunities and to escape the political turmoil. In the contemporary migration scenario, we should highlight that European politicians acknowledge that migration has different causes. There were times of forced migration like in the case of Roma[1], wartime migration, economic migration and other types of reasons and factors why people move from one place to another. In addition, almost all examples related to European migration resulted in support for the refugees, showing humanity and solidarity with them. The existing Syrian case of migration is not much different from the examples of wartime migration. This case caught the world’s attention ever since the country has become politically unstable. Syria’s territory is currently divided in the hands of several actors including coalitions of neighboring and foreign states helping one of the four main actors (Assad’s government, the rebels, ISIS and the Kurds). After all of these actors and events, how will the Syrian story end?

Syrians in hope of a better life tried their chances and migrated to Europe, the promised land of freedom, democracy and solidarity. That illusion was instantly demystified once they stepped on European soil[2]. Until now, approximately four million[3] Syrians have sought shelter in Europe. When the number was recorded as dramatic, European stakeholders began alarming discussions on a higher level. Some member states even called for regional initiatives and cooperation for the best or worst solutions of this issue[4]. At the European level, there were several attempts to solve and at the same time confound the situation[5]. In order to make it more theatrical, the media played its role and grasped the momentum of chaos to provide biases of narratives for the condition. Some media presented horrific picture of vandals attempting to disturb European peace and harmony[6], while others presented stories of their struggle running for their own lives[7]. Some of the sources depicted Syrians as a huge number of people in attempt to run through borders in order to reach western countries[8]. Other compassionate sources presented the protests and reported on the hunger strike of Syrians due to mistreatment of border controls[9].

When we discuss numbers, we have to acknowledge that high-level institutions see these people as nothing more than statistics, showing data and discussing quota of share[10]. Many of the EU members opposed the agreed-upon quota and showed low tolerance for diversity. Numerous meetings and discussions have failed due to unwillingness and a lack of interest for a common solution[11]. On the one hand, politicians from Hungary[12], Bulgaria[13], and Denmark[14] have blocked the development for a solution and even threatened refugees with newspaper anti-migrant advertisements and videos, which could qualify as action movies, starring local mayors as the main protectors of their land[15]. While on the other hand, sensible people stood up with a campaign for the refugees with the visible banners, moral, and material in support for the refugees[16]. One of the successful examples is the initiative by the Mareike Geiling, Jonas Kakoschke and Golde Ebding providing a safe stay for the refugees in Germany[17]. The initiative expanded from Germany to Austria, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland. European citizens can register online and provide details about their housing, then contact a refugee organization to host a refugee. The costs are covered by micro-donations of other people fundraised by the creators of the initiatives.

All these facts present a story of people escaping turmoil and refusing to take part or residing in the melting pot. These people seek a safer place to live, because nobody leaves his/her hearthstone if she/he has peace and security at home. Apart from the neighboring countries, Syrians migrated to Europe, due to the long history of democracy, promoting freedom and prosperity. Contrasting this idea, some European politicians and citizens had a different stance about them. Stakeholders such as the media, high level and state institutions had a huge set of mechanisms and discriminatory statements to refuse the entry of Syrian refugees for a variety of reasons starting from the accusation that they are economic migrants[18] to the most disgraceful when a Polish MEP in the European Parliament called them human garbage[19]. All these facts lead to a discouraging end of the story. In addition, Europe needs to roll back their memories when Hungarian, former Yugoslavian, Czechoslovakian, Polish and other refugees sought to find shelter while their homelands faced the same destiny as Syria is facing now. Only then European citizens, media and institutions will understand the desperate destiny of the Syrians trying to reach Europe.

 

This piece expresses the opinions of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the position of the European Student Think Tank. 

 

[1] “Rethinking (im)mobilities of Roma in Europe – Open Democracy” (last access 20.11.2015; available at https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/julija-sardeli%C4%87/rethinking-immobilities-of-roma-in-europe)

[2] “Refugees struggle to assimilate in Germany – Al Jazeera” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/8/28/berlin-germany-europe-refugees.html)

[3] “Total number of Syrian refugees exceeds four million for the first time – UNHCR” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.unhcr.org/559d67d46.html)

[4] “Slovakia calls Visegrad summit to oppose migrant quotas – EurActiv” (last access 15.10.2015; available at: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/justice-home-affairs/slovakia-calls-visegrad-summit-oppose-migrant-quotas-317199)

[5] Libya, Syria and migration discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council (last access 18.10.2015; available at: http://eeas.europa.eu/top_stories/2015/131015_libya-yria-and-migration_en.htm)

[6] “Europe is making a fatal mistake – National Review” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/424001/syrian-refugees-europe-mistake)

[7] “Traveling to Athens with a Syrian refugee” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/europe/2015/08/travelling-athens-syrian-refugee-150821123741872.html)

[8] “Frustrated migrants break through police lines in Hungary – CNN” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/08/europe/migrant-crisis-hungary/”

[9] “Refugee crisis: Asylum seekers start hunger strike as they refuse to leave Hungarian border – Independent” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugee-crisis-asylum-seekers-start-hunger-strike-as-they-refuse-to-leave-hungarian-border-10502112.html)

[10] “Migrant crisis: EU’s Juncker announces refugee quota plan – BBC” (last access 17.10.2015; available at:   http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34193568)

[11] “Many EU countries say ‘no’ to immigration quotas – EurActiv” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/justice-home-affairs/many-eu-countries-say-no-immigration-quotas-315184)

[12] “Refugee crisis: EU divided as Hungary attacks migrant quota as ‘unrealisable and nonsense’ – Telegraph” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/hungary/11884665/Refugee-crisis-EU-divided-as-Hungary-attacks-migrant-quota-as-unrealisable-and-nonsense.html)

[13] “No-Go zone: Why do migrants avoid this EU country – Sputnik News” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://sputniknews.com/europe/20150913/1026939675/bulgaria-attitude-migrants-authorities.html)

[14] “Denmark advertises how bad the country is to refugees – EurActiv” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/justice-home-affairs/denmark-advertises-how-bad-country-refugees-317417)

[15] “Hungarian Mayor Threatens Migrants in Homemade Action Movie – New York Times” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/18/world/europe/hungarian-mayor-threatens-migrants-in-homemade-action-movie.html?_r=0)

[16] “Refugees welcome” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.refugees-welcome.net/)

[17] “Refugees Welcome: ‘Airbnb for asylum seekers’ started by German couple spreads around the world – and the UK could be next – The Independent” (last access 20.11.2015; available at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugees-welcome-airbnb-for-asylum-seekers-started-by-german-couple-spreads-around-the-world-and-the-a6718321.html)

[18] “East-west tensions break out over call to share migrant burden – Financial times” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/ef5179bc-4ff7-11e5-8642-453585f2cfcd.html#axzz3kSi3wjWA)

[19] “’Europe being flooded with human garbage’ – Janusz Korwin-Mikke (Polish MEP) – Before its news” (last access 17.10.2015; available at: http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2015/09/europe-being-flooded-with-human-garbage-janusz-korwin-mikke-polish-mep-3211586.html)

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