Refugee crisis would overtake Europe

19th November 2015

19th November 2015

Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch emergencies director, has warned “crisis would overtake Europe” if it doesn’t respond to refugees’ issues.

“The European Union (EU) cannot agree to a common policy on how to accommodate these people and that’s why we have chaos,” said Bouckaert while speaking to `Democracy Now’. “It’s important that Europe and the world take charge of this crisis, or otherwise the crisis will take charge of Europe.”

“Many of the humanitarian needs of these desperate peoples are being met by volunteers and not by EU institutions, because there are no EU policies towards these people.”

Bouckaert, who has spent the last few months in the Balkans and Greece with the refugees, coming mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, is appalled at the official reactions emanating from United States and Europe.

In US, House speaker Paul Ryan and senate head Mitch McConnel have called for a halt in the US program of accepting Syrian refugees. No less than 27 US states have announced they would not accept Syrian refugees.

Poland has stated it would pull back from a EU commitment to house refugees. In France, Marine Le Pen of National Front Party has asked for an “immediate halt of all intake of migrants in France.” Geert Wilders of People’s Party to Freedom and Democracy in the Netherlands has called on the country’s prime minister to closer to border completely.

Czech president Milos Zeman has asked the young men from fleeing humanity to “fight for their country against the Islamic State.”

Said Zeman: “The majority of these illegal migrants are young, well-supported men. And I’m asking why these men are not fighting for the freedom of their country against the Islamic State?”

Bouckaert is distressed at such responses and claims it’s a fallacy to treat Syrian refugees as if they were harbouring terrorists amidst them.

For one, all the attackers identified in the Paris attacks have so far been European nationals. Even the Syrian passport, found near the body of an attacker, is believed to be fake.

Said Bouckaert: “(It’s) morally reprehensible and factually wrong to equate these people with terrorists.

“They are actually fleeing from the terrorists, and they’ve faced horrors of war in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

“Many of them are coming with their families, trying to bring them to safety.

“They have a right to asylum.

“They’ve tried to stay in Syria for as long as possible. It’s not like this was their first choice. They really love their country.

“And many of them have lost family members to those bombings. I’ve also met a lot of young men and women who have lost their legs and other limbs to these bombing raids and who have been carried this whole journey to safety in Europe,” said Bouckaert who, incidentally, was one of the first to share the image of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who was washed ashore dead off a Turkish beach a few months ago.

Bouckaert also doesn’t have time for the feeble excuses which he is hearing from the United States’ quarters.

“The reality is that any Syrian refugee coming to the United States already goes through four different levels of security review by different U.S. agencies, so the danger of anybody coming in under the guise of refugee status and being actually a terrorist is absolutely minuscule. We admit 70,000 people already every year, many of them from Iraq and Somalia, and there has not been a single incident of a person turning out to be a terrorist.”

Bouckaert brings up the role of United States in creating the present crisis through its misadventures of wars in the Middle East.

“It’s absolutely true that Afghanistan was invaded by the United States in 2001 and Iraq was invaded in 2003. Many mistakes were made in terms of the policies adopted. And so we do also have a moral responsibility towards these people fleeing the consequences of our actions, to some degree.”

Bouckaert indicated the West still hasn’t grasped the severity of the problem that has caused the shadow of a World War III or a nuclear holocaust over the world.

“There are 400,000 children, Syrian children, out of school in Turkey alone. If we do not provide them with an education, there is no future for Syria, because nobody will be able to run the country in the future.

“We’re faced with a generational crisis in the Middle East…we need a global response.

“Yes, there is a struggle to defeat ISIS, but that is not just a military struggle. It’s a struggle for the hearts and minds of the people of the Middle East. And that struggle for the hearts and minds is actually the most important component of what we have to accomplish.

“And by shutting the door on the refugees fleeing from ISIS and from the horrors of the war in Syria, we’re doing no favor in terms of winning the hearts and minds of these people.”

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