Sunday

3rd Jul 2022

EUobserved

EU flirts with hypocrisy in criticising Trump's refugee ban

The EU rightly spoke out against Donald Trump's entry ban on asylum seekers from Syria. But its own track record leaves much to be desired.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday (30 January) that the EU would continue to host refugees.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • The EU talks endlessly about solidarity. But in reality, solidarity does not exist except among the nameless volunteers on the ground. (Photo: MSF)

"It's our identity: we celebrate when walls are brought down and bridges are built," she said in a tweet.

Her comments appeared the same day a young man from Pakistan suffocated to death in a tent at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. He was trying to keep warm. It was the third death at the camp in a week.

The misery of people is well documented in so-called hotspots set up by the EU in both Italy and in Greece. The conditions are so bad that many, including Syrian refugees, have volunteered to return to Turkey from the Greek islands.

The EU blames the Greek government. The Greek government blames EU states for not relocating asylum seekers and for sealing off the Western Balkan route.

When Hungary erected a wall on its border with Serbia, the European Commission said it was a national issue. When a Syrian refugee protested against the barrier, Hungarian authorities gave him a 10-year prison sentence.

The EU talks endlessly about solidarity. But in reality, solidarity does not exist except among the nameless volunteers on the ground. And some of those are risking jail for their efforts. One Danish woman went on trial for people-smuggling after giving a family of refugees a ride to Copenhagen. A similar case is unfolding in Sweden.

Only around 10,000 people have been relocated from Italy and Greece to other EU states. The two-year scheme, which ends in September, had called for 160,000.

Many more have been kicked out. Almost 11,000 people were sent home last year, a four-fold increase compared with 2015 when 3,565 migrants were returned in 66 operations.

Both EU commission and member states now appear to oppose issuing humanitarian visas for people in need.

Germany may stand out as an exception after welcoming some 1 million in 2015.

Disgrace

But the fact that the world's richest nations are unwilling to properly care for the thousands stranded in Greece and on its islands is a disgrace. The task has largely been delegated to volunteers, NGOs and international aid organisations.

With populist parties gaining ground in the Netherlands, France and Germany, the anti-immigrant discourse has also gone mainstream. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte last week told Muslims to "act normal, or go away".

France's conservative presidential contender Francois Fillon has promised to erect national borders and German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere wants zones outside Europe to screen applicants before arrival.

De Maiziere's proposal is gaining traction.

The plan is to offshore the problem to war-torn Libya. The job is already under way in a handful of other African states and Afghanistan. This is the EU's invisible wall.

Last week, the EU commission announced a €200 million migrant deal with Libya and other north African states. It includes more training for the Libyan coast guard and navy and more surveillance in a country whose detention centres, according to leaked memos from the German government, are death traps.

Catherine Woollard, secretary general of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), has shed doubt on the plan.

"By supporting the Libyan coastguard, Europe wants to dispense with its obligation to provide protection. But what 'protection' will be provided when they are returned to Libyan soil - and the migrant centres it hosts?" she said.

Malta, the EU rotating presidency, says a migrant deal signed last year between Turkey and the EU could be a blueprint for Libya. The EU Turkey deal slowed the flow of people leaving for Greece.

But Libya has no functioning government and is largely run by warlords, despite the UN having the recognised GNA government in Tripoli.

Around 5,000 people died trying to reach the EU last year.

Most drowned while crossing the Mediterranean from Libya. Many more have been rescued and brought to Italy. But once onshore, another struggle begins.

Italian police

Last year, Amnesty International documented cases of torture by the Italian police in their effort to meet EU commission demands to fingerprint every arriving asylum seeker.

On the Italian border with Austria, Musa Diakite, a 35-year old from Mali, broke down and cried in despair when he told this website his dignity was in shreds.

Diakite's application for asylum was rejected. Unable to return home and without any rights, he wandered about aimlessly. "I don't want to sleep in the streets, I can't do it," he said.

He is one of many in a Europe that has turned its back on people in need of help.

Disclaimer

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

Alpine village dragged into Brenner refugee dispute

Franz Kompatscher, the mayor of an Italian village near the Austrian border, wants an EU response to a refugee crisis that just threatened to create a new barrier at the Brenner Pass.

Dutch anti-Trump protesters turn on Wilders

Some 2,000 people protested in The Hague against the US travel ban for people from seven Muslim-majority countries, but also threw in some anti-Wilders slogans.

EU leaders must stand up to Trump, say MEPs

MEPs have urged the EU to stand up for European values, starting with rejecting Trump's presumed choice for US ambassador, who has stated that he wants to "tame" the bloc.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

Expect Czech EU presidency to downgrade V4 priorities

The Czech Republic is already in the throes of an extremely difficult period — several waves of Covid, high inflation, energy fears, an influx of Ukrainian refugees and a Prague corruption scandal. Now it has the EU presidency.

News in Brief

  1. EU Parliament 'photographs protesting interpreters'
  2. Poland still failing to meet EU judicial criteria
  3. Report: Polish president fishing for UN job
  4. Auditors raise alarm on EU Commission use of consultants
  5. Kaliningrad talks needed with Russia, says Polish PM
  6. Report: EU to curb state-backed foreign takeovers
  7. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  8. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  2. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  3. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  4. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way
  5. Israel smeared Palestinian activists, EU admits
  6. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  7. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  8. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us