Europe’s largest humanitarian crisis, the refugee situation on the island of Lesbos and more particularly in what used to be the Moria refugee camp, exists only as a result of a complete lack of goodwill. Nothing more and nothing less.
Kati Verstrepen, president of the Flemish Liga voor Mensenrechten (League for Human Rights) hit the nail right on the head when she stated that 12,000 people from Moria need to be resettled, out of a population of 450 million Europeans. And she followed this statement with the rhetorical question: “What is the problem?”. To put that into perspective, we are talking about 1 refugee for every 37,500 European citizens. Seriously, what is the problem?
The EU published an elaborate new pact on migration and asylum in Europe last week, only two weeks after the Moria fire took place. In the meantime, 12,000 people, of which approximately 5,400 children are still living in atrocious conditions. No number of fancy pacts will change anything to this situation if the will to act is not there.
As long as EU countries showing solidarity continue to compare themselves to countries like Hungary, Poland or the Czech Republic who have no intention of complying with the relocation pacts, the EU will have blood on its hands. When certain EU members show a complete contempt for human rights, the other member states have an even stronger moral duty to respect their assigned quotas and stand up for the union’s founding principles of respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and rule of law.
Those countries who refuse to adhere to these principles by refusing to take on their designated quotas – quotas that when put into perspective should make EU leaders ashamed – do not have their place inside this union.
Now let’s put things into perspective
Two of the three European countries currently violating their part of the refugee quota deal, Hungary and the Czech republic, have a thing or two to be thankful for when looking back at their own history of emigration.
The Hungarian emigration story
In 1956 after the Hungarian revolution 200,000 Hungarians fled the country in a matter of months following the revolution. That is 2 out of every 100 Hungarians.
Within 5 months Austria received 171,000 Hungarian refugees. In a period of less than 8 weeks resettlement movements for these refugees amounted to 84,000 and one year later only 18,000 refugees remained to be resettled.
Ex -Yugoslavia also opened its doors to some 20,000 Hungarians. By the end of January 1957 all of these 20,000 refugees had also found resettlement solutions.
The Czechoslovakian story
In 1968 Soviet military forces entered Czechoslovakia and the country swiftly found itself under the complete control of occupying forces. 80,000 Czechoslovakian citizens either fled West or found themselves abroad already and unable to return home in the wake of this crisis. When the borders to Czechoslovakia were sealed in October 1969 54,000 Czechs were still scattered around Europe.
Within 18 months 18,248 Czechoslovakian refugees were resettled abroad, while the remainder chose to return or found a solution in Western Europe.
In the period from 1948 to 1990 it is estimated that 500,000 people fled Czechoslovakia for political and economical reasons. Motives ranged from the unbearableness of the totalitarian regimes to unsatisfactory standards of living. Be it as it may, emigration was not a decision taken lightly as it was a criminal offense resulting in the confiscation of possessions and sometimes the persecution of relatives
Surely of all people, Czechs with their recent and turbulent emigration history, must understand that only those people who have been led to complete and utter desperation decide to leave their homes and pay the incredibly heavy price of becoming a refugee? Hungarians also only need look back one generation to remember that such catastrophes can befall anyone. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.