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Suspending the Schengen Agreement will block refugees in Europe's periphery

15 September 2015 / 16:09:21  GRReporter
3119 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

48 hours after Farmakonisi where 34 refugees and migrants drowned, many of them children, another tragedy took place in the Aegean today. According to the French news agency AFP and the Turkish Dogan agency, at least 22 people, including four children, drowned southwest off the Turkish coast.

The migrants died trying to cut across the distance to the Greek island of Kos at around 6:00 am today. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that they travelled in a 20-metre long wooden boat. So far, the members of the Turkish coast guard have rescued 211 passengers from the boat. The operation to search for the other people in the sea continues.

At the same time, the decision of the German government to temporarily suspend the Schengen Agreement and restore the control on the border with Austria has seriously disturbed the Greek authorities. Government officials have warned that the anyway weak Greek system for dealing with the refugee wave is facing the risk of a total failure, due to the decision of other EU member states to close their borders and follow the strategy of "third" countries such as Serbia and Macedonia. In such a situation, thousands of Syrian refugees who arrive every day on the islands will be blocked in Greece, as they will not be able to continue on their way to their final destination, namely Central and Western Europe.

Since yesterday, the Greek service for refugees has undertaken to draw up an emergency action plan in view of the possible increase in asylum applications by Syrian refugees who will not be able to go to Germany, as has happened over the past few days. In addition, the service officials are attempting to shorten the procedures for registration and examination of applications and to introduce a fast track procedure only for refugees from Syria.

According to a publication in the Greek daily Kathimerini, the Greek police and the Greek intelligence service are following the issue. On the other hand, the Greek diplomatic sources say that Germany's decision to unilaterally suspend the implementation of the Schengen Agreement aims to stop migration flows but also to put pressure on the countries of Central Europe that are negatively responding to the refugees distribution plan.

The same sources comment that EU Foreign Ministers were positive to the Greek delegation at their meeting yesterday, unlike previous times. According to Kathimerini, commissioners were also concerned over the recent developments and some of them warned that Greece and Italy would be at risk of being "suffocated" by tens of thousands of refugees and migrants.

Europe's response to the refugee wave is one of the main topics in the Bulgarian public debate too. In a blitz interview with GRReporter political analyst Ognyan Minchev expressed concern about the passive position of the European leadership and described the dangers behind it, with regard to the countries in the periphery of Europe.

Mr. Minchev, what should be the attitude of Europe towards refugees from Syria and what should be the solution there on the part of the international community?

Firstly, there should be a significant distinction between due human sympathy and compassion to the tragedy of those people that every civilized person, whether located in Europe or anywhere else in the world, is bound to show. We must help these people as we can.

The question is by what means could we help them, what would be the best long-term solutions to their problems and how could we help them without inflicting damage on the stability and social peace in our own societies.

What has happened in Europe over the past few weeks and especially in the last week shows a deep crisis of the potential of European countries and the EU to implement this humanitarian mission in support of refugees.

Firstly, I would like to emphasize the fact that all this exodus of many thousands from Turkey to the Greek islands that previously took place along the green border between Turkey and Bulgaria shows that the main European institutions and systems, such as Frontex and Schengen, are not actually functioning.

I.e. Europe has given up the opportunity to protect its borders and take sovereign decisions on the challenges associated with the violation of its borders, albeit by a flood of refugees. The non-functioning of these European border-guarding instruments in fact means that Europe is helpless in terms of its active attitude towards solving this problem. That is why it is passive. We are waiting for the boats to come, waiting for the convoys to come, waiting for all these huge masses of people to come,those who are deliberately controlled and directed by traffickers who obtain their money and agreement to transport them on these dangerous journeys.

Secondly, assume that the decision to receive and accommodate those refugees who have knocked on Europe’s door in recent weeks and years is a humane and good solution. However, the question is if Europe will have the capacity to take such decisions. Millions of people in the Middle East are in terrible trouble as well as in Iran, Iraq and Syria, where the so-called Islamic State is operating, in Yemen, where there is a cruel civil war, and in many other places. Not to mention that following the overthrowing of the Gaddafi regime, a very wide corridor has formed in Libya for a large-scale influx of applicants to migrate to Europe from the African countries.

Can Europe passively wait for all those who are knocking on its door, not even knocking now but entering without knocking, and receive all those tens of millions who would like to set off to it and are active enough to do so? Obviously, this cannot happen and Europe together with its partners and allies must have a much more active position in implementing particular policies that are aimed at protecting the borders and stability of European societies.

Unfortunately, what we saw last week was the helplessness of the officials in Brussels, combined with exceptional arrogance. The fact that the German government can adopt a decision to accommodate a certain number of refugees in Germany does not mean that Brussels can oblige every European country to do so, in an absolutely authoritarian manner and by imposing a quota. This is an arrogant way to solve a refugee problem that is due to the helplessness of these European officials who are paid to protect Europe.

Countries like Bulgaria that lies on the border of the EU system are facing specific and significant challenges due to the refugee wave. On the one hand, Bulgaria as the first country on the way of refugees to the EU has received more than 15,000 Syrian refugees over the past four years. On the other hand, the competition within the EU is taking these masses of refugees mainly to the wealthy countries of northwestern Europe, especially to Germany but also to the Netherlands and Sweden. Therefore, these distribution quotas will actually take the periphery and marginal segments of the refugee wave to Bulgaria and countries like Bulgaria. In the centre of Sofia, there is even now a neighbourhood where we can see people who look strange and who are making their living by smuggling and other minor or major criminal offences or by fanaticism and its related activities in the predominantly Muslim regions and communities in Bulgaria.

I think that the European institutions in Brussels should take into account all these circumstances while making all these decisions. The solutions to the refugee problem must be sought in the territories and countries of its origin, and not primarily in the countries of Europe, where there are certain limits of saturation with refugees from the Middle East. They are not only economic and social, but cultural as well. Because no European country has been able to integrate into its culture, tradition and social public life the vast majority of Muslim migrants, whether they have come from the Middle East, Turkey or the Maghreb so far.

How could this happen, since a large number of refugees are already in Europe?

The people who are already here could hardly be asked to leave at this stage. They will have to be accommodated in the countries in which they have already arrived. The point is that there are millions more after them. And if European countries together with their NATO partners fail to carry out certain operations to destroy the bandits of the Islamic State or somehow to regulate the chaos in the Middle East, at least in terms of its external dimensions, which is possible only through military action, Europe will continue to participate in this process only as a victim.

How would you comment on the attitude of Syria’s neighbouring countries? It seems that no other country with the exception of Turkey and Lebanon wants to participate in the reception of refugees.

They have no public morality to oblige them to help refugees.

Tags: SocietyRefugees and migrantsEuropeSuspension of Schengen AgreementDistribution of refugees in the EU
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