Friday

24th Nov 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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

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.

Eastern partners, eastern problems

The EU must hold out the olive branch of possible membership in the distant future - but the current domestic problems in the ex-Soviet states, let alone their links to Russia make more than that difficult.

EU must put Sudan under microscope at Africa summit

The EU is throwing a lot of money at Sudan to manage migration from the Horn of Africa to Europe - but the upcoming Africa Union-EU summit is a chance to probe Sudan about its own human rights record.

The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik

If, as the EU claims, the Eastern Partnership summit is not a format for conflict resolution, where else will the security issues that hold the region back be resolved?

EU must confront Poland and Hungary

Curtailing NGOs and threatening judicial independence are the hallmarks of developing-world dictators and authoritarian strongmen, not a free and pluralistic European Union.

Mind the gap: inequality in our cities

Minimum wages, 'living' wages and a universal basic income are all part of the ongoing mix to find ways to reduce social inequality across the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Rwanda may resettle 30,000 migrants from Libya
  2. EU tax haven blacklist may include Turkey
  3. No UK 'capital of culture' city post-Brexit
  4. EU sets up natural disaster rescue team
  5. Spain sends migrant arrivals to unfinished prison
  6. Iceland prepares for biggest volcano to blow
  7. Greek parliament postpones debate on Saudi arms deal
  8. Family of murdered Malta journalist to sue police

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  4. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  5. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  6. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  7. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  10. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  11. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  12. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!

Latest News

  1. EU awaits UK proposals in final push for Brexit breakthrough
  2. Berlin risks being 'culprit' for stalling EU, warns Green MEP
  3. Eastern partners, eastern problems
  4. Germany's Schulz under pressure to enter coalition talks
  5. LuxLeaks trial re-opens debate on whistleblowers' protection
  6. Wilders says Russia is 'no enemy' ahead of Moscow visit
  7. EU must put Sudan under microscope at Africa summit
  8. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya