Saturday

19th Sep 2020

Opinion

Fighting the prejudice

  • EU citizens are fearful of the repercussions of the migrant crisis, but life in Europe for the migrants is often far from rosy (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

The number of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide has exceeded 50 million for the first time since World War II, and migration has become a permanent fixture on the European agenda.

The vulnerability of refugees to exploitation and abuse is aggravated by the extremely limited possibilities to legally enter and stay in the EU. The total number of Schengen-area visas granted to Syrian nationals dropped from over 30,000 in 2010 to almost zero in 2013.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

While there are no perfect solutions to the crisis, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has made a number of proposals to help prevent the tragedies we’ve been seeing at ever shorter intervals for two years now, for example by increasing the number of legal avenues by which people can enter the EU.

Though such a measure may well increase the volume of refugees seeking asylum in the EU, it could equally reduce the number of deaths and cut the refugees’ dependency on smugglers, who are capitalising on the misery of vulnerable human beings.

The current rules not only turn traumatised refugees into criminals and punish them with imprisonment or fines, but often penalise those who help them. Providers of humanitarian or legal assistance, or those who help migrants in distress at sea, therefore rightly fear punishment.

The FRA argues that EU countries must not impose penalties on refugees who enter without authorisation, and that punishment should be ruled out for those providing humanitarian assistance, be it from rescue at sea through to the provision of food, shelter, medical care, or legal advice.

Reality of migrant life in the EU

Despite the vast number of articles, interviews and speeches about the EU migrant crisis in recent weeks, there has been little discussion about the reality of living in the EU with a migrant or minority background.

FRA research shows that it is anything but simple to belong to a minority group in the EU, whether you arrived a week ago or your family has been here for generations.

A survey of 23,500 people with an ethnic or religious minority background found that on average one in four Muslims had been subject to police stops over the previous year, with 40 percent believing they had been stopped because of their minority background.

There are many myths surrounding the concept of integration, beginning with the theory that migrants do not really want to integrate.

Their integration and participation in the EU countries in which they settle are vital for us to make use of their skills, knowledge and experience, all of which are increasingly in demand in our aging societies.

The major stumbling block in this apparent win-win situation is that migrants fear deportation so much that they will avoid going to the police to report a crime or even visit the doctor. This, combined with the fear of prejudice or sheer indifference from the general population, forces many migrants to keep a very low profile.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, the FRA did some snapshot research on the effect of the events on Jewish and Muslim communities around the EU.

We discovered that among both communities, the fear of antisemitism and Islamophobia had risen sharply.

Policy makers and journalists have a great deal of agenda-setting power.

Instead of outrage at the desperate people who are trying to reach Europe’s shores, public anger might be better directed at the prejudice which people from certain religions or with a certain skin colour face every day.

Katya Andrusz is journalistic editor at the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency. Any opinions expressed in this article are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Eurostar suspended after people seen on tracks

Eurostar passengers were stranded for hours as migrants tried to enter the tunnel to make it to the UK. The European Commission has promised new migration plans next week.

Hungary U-turn on migrant trains prompts unrest

Hungary's decision to block migrants from going to Germany has prompted chaotic scenes in Budapest, with PM Orban to meet European Commission chief Juncker on Thursday for talks on the situation.

Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?

Leuven's Catholic University, one of Belgium's best, has decided to close one of its respected but controversial chairs. And many say that is not because of an academic failure or scandal, but a result of the Turkish government's relentless pressure.

Why is EU rewarding Israel for annexation?

This is a critical moment. The UAE-Israel agreement, welcomed by the European Union, represents a severe blow to the Arab Peace Initiative, writes the diplomatic affairs' adviser for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

News in Brief

  1. Belarus president puts army on EU borders
  2. US: Lebanese group hoarding explosives in EU states
  3. Russia loses EU sanctions appeal
  4. UK guidelines explain Brexit treaty-violation plan
  5. Over 10,000 corona cases a day in France
  6. Greek police move Moria refugees following fire
  7. WHO warns Europe not to cut 14-day quarantine period
  8. MEPs urge EU Council to 'finally' protect rights in Poland

How Covid-19 is changing the European Union

The past six months of Covid-19 response have changed the EU, but has it learnt the lessons for the crises left to come - migration, conflict, and a second wave?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Commissioner: No one will like new EU migration pact
  2. Buying an EU passport 'no use for evading sanctions'
  3. MEPs call for first-ever EU law on Romani inclusion
  4. EU to help draft Libya's strategy on border security
  5. Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal
  6. Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens
  7. Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?
  8. Biden threatens UK trade deal over Brexit shambles

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us