Unified EU response to refugee crisis crucial

The warning of a breakdown in the European Union (EU) migration system, if tangible results are not seen on the ground in 10 days, is a clear indication of the tension and strained relations among EU countries as a result of the refugee crisis.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the Migration Commissioner, has said that EU has until a March 7 summit with Turkey to curb the number of refugees coming to Europe, failing which, it could see a complete breakdown of the bloc’s migration system. He also warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis in Greece or on the western Balkans route, which most migrants take to northern European countries. The EU-Turkey summit is crucial for the unity of the EU and for the deal that Brussels and Ankara signed in November to cut refugee flow.

But the EU’s attempt to forge a unified response to the crisis is in trouble after Austria’s decision to call a western Balkans meeting without inviting Greece. Individual members are taking matters into their own hands to protect their borders. Greece recalled its envoy from Austria and warned it would not be treated as ‘Europe’s Lebanon’. Athens is already angry over border restrictions by Austria, Macedonia and Serbia along the refugee trail to northern Europe that has caused a bottleneck in Greece. More than 100,000 refugees have arrived in Europe this year, apart from the one million in 2015. But in a positive development, Nato has managed to overcome differences between Greece and Turkey to finalise a naval mission to tackle refugee smugglers in the Aegean.

In the midst of what is happening on the ground, there is a sense of weariness to the issue from around the world. Refugees continue to try and cross the waters in dinghies, putting their lives and the lives of their loved ones at risk. Tens of people continue to die as boats capsize, but they do not elicit the same response they once did. A sense of fatigue and emotional immunity has set in.

The world is beginning to forget that people fleeing for their lives from crisis-hit countries in search of a better life are first human beings and then refugees. They are people who are desperate to give their children a fresh lease of life in countries of peace, where they would not have to worry about terrorism. In such a scenario, countries around the world need to look at these refugees with a fresh perspective, sorting out differences that stand in the way and giving hope to those who are willing to risk their lives. Courtesy Gulfnews

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