Refugee Crisis Splits European Union

European Union countries are shifting the responsibility of the refugee crisis on to Turkey, which is already overburdened by two and a half million refugees who were forced to flee after their homes were bombed.

After the EU foreign ministers’ talks in Brussels, Turkey was pushed to stop the inflow of refugees to European shores and keep them in Turkey in exchange for for £2.3 billion.

Surprisingly, Turkey was also told that its chances of joining the EU may be improved if it helped stop refugees from entering continental Europe. Turkey’s deputy ambassador to Britain, Cem Isik, revealed that a negligible sum of money has actually been received. Turkey’s accession to the EU is not guaranteed, it is only an idea. All 28 countries of the EU will have to agree on its membership, which seems an unlikely prospect in the near future. Two major EU countries, France and Britain, have already criticised Turkey for not abiding by “European values”, whatever that means.

Division and distrust among the European nations is not new either, but opinions on the refugee issue are splintered. This mess may ultimately lead to the break up of the Union.

Also, the British dilemma on the forthcoming referendum on June 23, whether to leave or remain in the EU, poses an altogether new question. How would this economic and political organisation look after the referendum? Would it be plagued with even more issues?

Whatever the outcome, the refugee crisis is not going to go away. Several media accounts suggest that a bribe of three billion euro and a dubious invitation to the European Union does not appeal to the Turkish people. Some have called it an act of political expediency, others a potentially dodgy deal.

Some Western media pundits are skeptical about handing over money to Turkey, which, they say, may not be able or willing to stop refugees drifting towards Europe.

Turkey has a proud record of willingly accepting refugees from all over the world without questions being asked about religion, ethnicity or language, including thousands of persecuted Jews who fled from Spain after the Spanish Inquisition. As a Muslim country it was a remarkable gesture towards Jews at a time when no country was under obligation to admit refugees as it is today under the United Nations Convention 21, of 1951.

Angela Merkel of Germany must have studied the European history and apparently emulated the Turkish leaders’ open door policy for the present-day asylum seekers. Germany, in fact, has won the hearts and minds of the Muslim population everywhere; its generosity of spirit in taking in one and a half million mainly Muslims is widely appreciated throughout the world.

Migration is a live issue, much talked about every day. What are the central and eastern European responses to this crisis? Closing of borders is one, reluctance and outright refusal to accept refugees of Muslim religion and culture is another. There is no readiness to share the burden among the eastern and central European nations such as Czech Republic, Hungary, staunchly Roman Catholic Poland, Slovakia, Macedonia, and Serbia.

However, asylum seekers would not be happy in those countries, a few were accepted in Poland but they left for Germany or Scandinavia.

There is no denying the fact that NATO countries created the refugee problem with Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan over the past 14 years, and now they want to escape their collective guilt and responsibility for dealing with the problem.

Even President Obama, whose country is not without blame either, has strongly criticised Prime Minister David Cameron and the former French President for their involvement in Libya’s political and economic destruction.

After conspiring to topple the legitimate leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, and subsequently his assassination, the country has been plunged into a horrible mess, causing millions of displaced persons who have lost their homes and livelihood.

This is only one part of the story, the second tier, the relatively recent advent of Russian intervention on behalf of the Syrian president Basher al-Asad, has utterly complicated the ever growing unresolved conflicts in the region.

The influx of refugees will continue, unless the US, Russian, Syrian, and NATO air bombings of Iraq and Syria are completely halted.

Russia has had enough, though, and its president Mr Putin has announced a partial withdrawal of its army officers and air force; some element of military equipment and personnel will remain in Syria.

If the West can follow the Russian example, peace is achievable in this region. Solving the ten million displaced persons’ rehabilitation will continue to exercise our minds for many years.

By Nisar Ali Shah, London-based journalist and Uniting for Peace member and supporter
His email is n-shah@sky.com

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