Saturday, October 12, 2013

The pope is right: Europe should be ashamed

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, 560,000 refugees (or about 9% of the Jordianian population) have crossed into Jordan and asked for asylum. The cost of providing shelter, food, water (Jordan is a desert state) and assistance for all these refugees has cost the government of this upper-middle income country 1.53 billion USD since the beginning of the refugee crisis. Commenting on the refugee situation, Jordan's interior minister said
Jordan is a safe haven; even if we have to share some of our livelihood we will not deprive anyone of the privilege to be here. This is the nature of Jordanians and their leadership, and I pray to God that we are never in a position where we would make a different decision. I want to emphasize Jordan’s moral, humanitarian and political commitment.
Meanwhile, 6,400 Syrian refugees have reached the European Union through Bulgaria. Others come into the EU through Greece or Italy. Two boats carrying African refugees capsized at Lampedusa this week, killing hundreds of them. At the Council meeting of Interior Ministers this week, some of these countries asked for help from their richer, northern European neighbours. They find that the 2003 Dublin II regulation – which obliges asylum seekers to file their asylum request in the EU country of arrival – does not respond to the challenges of today any more.

But the richer north European partners refused to move an inch away from the Dublin II regulation. A representative survey conducted in Germany last week revealed that a majority (52%) of the Germans believe the EU should accepted more refugees, but the same majority (51%) thinks that these refugees should go to a country other than Germany.

For a bloc of the most developed countries in the world, but especially for a union that prizes itself for being a value-community, this is completely unacceptable. The pope put it a bit more bluntly: This a shame.

The EU not only has the economic resources and cultural diversity to accept a far greater number of refugees, but it has also proclaimed to the world that it promotes humanitarian values and human rights.

But the picture that it gives of itself in the African and Syrian refugee crisis is a club of wealthy countries, busy with itself, ignoring the rest of the world.

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