There is one thing everyone agrees on: the migration flow to Europe will not be a temporary phenomenon; it will last for a long time. Wars, devastation, and famine can only find solutions in the medium and long term.
In 2015, there were almost one million migrants in Europe and over 4 thousand people had died at sea, while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. More than half of them are fleeing from war: last year, 800 thousand refugees arrived to Greece alone.
The Balkan route, which allowed migrants to reach Austria and Germany, passing through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia, had worked at full capacity until mid-February 2016, facilitating the passage of an average of 2-5 thousand people a day.
Today, borders are closed. All the countries involved, starting from Macedonia, have barred their borders, thus preventing tens of thousands of refugees in Greece, especially in the Idomeni camp, located on the border between the two countries, where about 10 thousand people have crowded, hoping that the Macedonian border will reopen. The situation is imploding in Idomeni. There are people who are in miserable conditions, without adequate humanitarian assistance, without access to primary goods, nor to information about their future, exposed to police violence on the border, and to the traffickers inside the field.
The agreement between the EU and Turkey signed on 18 March provides for the management of migrants’ arrival on the Greek coasts and for the rejection of those who are currently on the Balkan route. Certainly, it is partial answer. The EU must do much more.
An option that needs to be supported concerns the “Migration Compact”, the proposal of the Italian Government on migration. Basically, this initiative will allow us to identify the partner countries with whom to cooperate and define the type of strategy to developed with each of them. Overcoming the emergency and at the same time enhancing the role of international cooperation, the Italian government wants to promote a new approach and impose a change of pace on Europe. We have to give centrality to the dignity of people and their right to life again.
As Pope Francis argued, “promoting the dignity of the person means recognizing that this person has inalienable rights and that (s)he cannot be deprived of them arbitrarily, let alone for economic interests”. Therefore, Europe needs change and reform. If it is unable to financially help refugees’ countries of origin, it should at least face humanitarian problem.
Over the last few years, alongside the EU’s enlargement process, also the citizens’ mistrust on towards the European institutions has been growing. They consider it distant, engaged in establishing bureaucratic rules perceived as harmful. It is necessary to change the European institutions, return to the spirit of its founding fathers, and ensure that the sacredness of the human person becomes Europe’s core, not economy. On those boats there are men and women who need reception and help, and the Mediterranean cannot be merely a large cemetery. The absence of mutual support inside the EU is likely to stimulate particularistic solutions to the problem, which does not take into account immigrants’ dignity.
The challenge for Europe is to propose very clearly its cultural identity and implement appropriate legislation, able both to protect the rights of European citizens and to guarantee reception to migrants. They ask about us and we cannot deny ourselves.
Vice Precident of the European Parliament