A Refugee’s No Man’s Land
The refugee crisis in the Middle East seemed to have reached its tipping point over the past few weeks. The dramatic photos of Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach- a result of his family fleeing the ongoing Syrian civil war- went viral, leading to global outrage. Chancellor Angela Merkel led the response by welcoming undocumented refugees to Germany. The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, proposed a plan based on quotas to distribute nearly 160,000 refugees throughout the EU. Progress seemed on the horizon for millions of families stuck in refugee limbo for the past few years.
Merely a week after such promises and proposed plans for action, hope turned to trauma and further confusion. Germany has reversed course on their willingness to admit refugees citing ‘security reasons’ and causing a chain reaction of events. Neighboring countries followed suit, imposing border crackdowns entailing fence construction, checkpoint closures and police tactics to keep desperate refugees in check. Throughout the EU, calls to end Schengen – the decades old ‘free travel’ border policy- were rampant. The drastic turn of events left thousands of refugees in a version of ‘no man’s land’, stuck in registration checkpoints with no ability to go in any direction.
The sheer number of migrants has left many nations hesitant to open their borders despite the clear suffering they endure. ‘New Europe’ nations like Hungary, Slovakia and Austria state they don’t have the wealth or infrastructure to support the thousands seeking refuge and strongly oppose Juncker’s plan for a refugee ‘disbursement’. Germany’s sudden change of heart shows wealthy nations are also unsure how to handle such an influx. Other western powers, including the United States, have only promised to take in a few thousand more refugees while stating they will not expedite the review process despite its daunting time frame.
European Union officials recently held an emergency session to discuss many aspects of the crisis including refugee relocation and how to ‘stem the tide’ of refugees hoping to make it to European destinations. Some called for an increase in aid to those still in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, stating it would result in less desperation to make the deadly journey to Europe.
One thing remains clear, as the conflicts throughout the Middle East rage on and millions continue to suffer, something must be done. Asylum seekers continue to show their make-or-break resolve, refusing to give up hope for a better future. As the European Commission stated, “The world is watching us…now is the time for each and every one to take responsibility”.