The Global Refugee Scandal

Europe or Die

VICE News (2015)

Film Review

According to UNHCR (the UN High Commission for Human Rights), more than 50 million people have been permanently displaced through wars in the Middle East, political persecution, climate change and grinding poverty. Of these, hundreds of thousands face such life threatening conditions at home that they risk death by crossing the Mediterranean in rusty, leaky, overcrowded boats.

Refugees typically take one of four routes in their desperation to reach Europe: illegal entry into one of the two Spanish enclaves in Morocco, a short choppy boat trip from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos or across the Avros River into mainland Greece, jumping a wire fence from Greece into Bulgaria or crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Europe or Die is a four part documentary follows some of these migrants on their dangerous voyage and closely examines their treatment by EU countries on their arrival.

This documentary was a real eye opener for me. Given the majority of these refugees are the helpless victims of proxy wars started and funded by the US and wealthy EU countries, their refusal of to adopt consistent and humane immigration policies is clearly a crime against humanity under international law.

Part I: For most sub-Saharan refugees seeking illegal entry to Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish enclaves on the Moroccan coast, the best option is to jump three high razor wire topped fences. Under EU law, the first fence demarcates the Spanish border. Refugees who make it past the first fence (it’s really a kind of game) are home free and must be given the option of moving to mainland Spain. They’re also entitled to legal assistance and an interpreter to help them apply for asylum.

The most common is for thousands to storm the fence simultaneously and overwhelming the border guards. Typically two out of 1,000 will get through. It’s illegal, under EU law, for Spanish police to forcibly return them. However “pushbacks,” as they are called are common. As is shooting their hands and feet to make it harder to climb the fence. This is also against the rules.

Part 2: A second common route for migrants is to take the “death boat” from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos or across the Avros River to mainland Greece. Refugees can pay smugglers several thousand dollars to cram them into shabby, overcrowded boats that frequently capsize.

Greece is experiencing a five-fold increase in illegal migration as a direct result of the civil war in Syria. Recently they have experienced a big influx of Iraqi refugees (mainly Yazidis*) with the rise of ISIS. As part of the game, the EU has another law, called the Dublin rule, that political refugees become the responsibility of the country where they are first picked up, irregardless of the country’s ability to provide jobs or social services.

Part 3: A third route is to cross the razor wife fence separating Turkey from Bulgaria, the poorest country in the EU. Bulgaria keeps political refugees in unheated tents without access to clean water. Once they are granted asylum they are forced to leave the camp and end up homeless on the streets.

Part 4: The final, most common method of reaching Europe is to cross from Libya to the Italian Island of Lampedusa. Up until a few months ago, the Italian Navy operated the only search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean. Called Mare Nostrum, it was made up of 900 personnel and 26 naval vessels – at a cost of $9 million euros a month.

In 2013, Mare Nostrum saved 150,000 migrants from boats that had capsized. Owing to the refusal of the EU to support this fantastically expensive program, it had to be cancelled in 2014.

It’s been replaced by Triton, an air surveillance program that requests nearby merchant vessels (if there are any) to rescue migrants in leaky votes.

In 2014, 170,000 migrants made it safely to Italy and 3,000 drowned.


*Yazidis are a Kurdish ethnic group ISIS attempted to exterminate in August 2014.

12 thoughts on “The Global Refugee Scandal

  1. Ultimately, some groups are criminally responsible for actions leading to the devastating refugee issue. Unless those whose actions led to the present catastrophe of biblical proportions become stopped, thus prevented from further actions, the world can reasonably expect a worsening of the horror.

    Like

    • I think the basic issue here is that the US and Europe are creating the refugee crisis through their disastrous military interventions in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, by supporting arms merchants that provide weapons to both sides in the civil wars they create and through large corporate takeovers of southern Africa that are driving indigenous farmers off their land.

      The ultimate solution to the refugee crisis is to end these military interventions and to rein in arms merchants and corporate agrobusinesses that are destroying southern Africa.

      If the EU is serious about ending the refugee crisis, they need to take a firm stance in the UN on ending these human rights abuses and to put more pressure on the US to help take some of the refugees (I heard on the BBC that 6,000 were picked up and taken to Italy last night) – since I think it’s pretty clear that the US is responsible for most of the human rights violations that cause people to become refugees in the first place.

      Like

      • I agree I m an African , but I come to Europe I do my business then I go back, why do I go back, cause Africa I s my home, I have nothing to run away from my country, I m not saying my country is perfect but at the moment I have no reason to go risk my life coming to Europe in a crowded boat, the refugees are not the problem , but the invasions are the problem, they say they are solving one problem but creating 20 problems at the same time.

        Like

  2. Thanks for stopping by, riz chi. I think our policy makers are being loose with the truth when they claim to be helping Africa. They are in it for the immense profits to be made, and they know it.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.