The latest stage of the refugee crisis has seen the European Union (EU) strike a dangerous deal with the Turkish state to try to reduce the number of refugees reaching Europe. All refugees arriving in Greece will be returned to Turkey.
The EU will then supposedly accept one Syrian asylum seeker from camps in Turkey for every one returned in this way. But already there has been chaos in implementing and processing this, with nowhere near enough resources made available.
The first set of migrants were deported from Greece to Turkey on 4 April. This was met with protesters jumping in the sea and blocking roads to stop the deportations.
It caused administrative chaos and civil unrest that led to a four-day suspension of the deal. Some are so desperate they have said they will commit suicide if deported.
The future for those removed remains uncertain. A number of the claims about the life awaiting them have been disproven.
For example it’s argued that Turkish labour laws meanSyrians will be able to work. But for this they need a work permit and figures suggest that less than 0.1% will be granted one.
And sending those fleeing war and repression to a country that is itself conducting a war against parts of its own population cannot guarantee their protection and is not a solution.
Despite the lack of protection for them in Turkey, the EU is forging ahead. However, if thousands continue to make the dangerous journey to Europe, the deal will fall apart. In all of this it is innocent victims that continue to suffer and pay the price for a crisis they never caused.
25 refugees, including several children, died on 6 March as a result of the latest boat capsized off the coast of Turkey.
In 2015 alone, more than a million people crossed the Mediterranean Sea in dangerous routes, risking their lives to flee war and persecution. For nearly 4,000 of them, the journey for survival came to a tragic end in the deep ocean. More than 400 migrants have already died since the beginning of this year.
Despite the perilous journey, hundreds of thousands of refugees are continuing to put their lives at risk to escape and reach safety. European countries are making extreme attempts to discourage refugees entering Europe – building higher fences, cutting benefits, tightening immigration laws and seizing possessions.
However, a recent report by the Overseas Development Institute stated the obvious – that these attempts “will not stop” refugees coming to Europe. War, repression and poverty are some of the main reasons for the increase in migration.
The five year Syria conflict has left 13.5 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Ten million Syrians have been internally displaced by violence and 4.6 million people are estimated to have fled the country – on top of hundreds of thousands who have been killed before they could escape.
Along with the Syrian civil war, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are among the conflicts that have resulted in the increase in the number of refugees. These victims are now paying the price of wars they never wanted or caused. The vast majority of those entering Europe are affected by these conflicts.
On top of Britain’s direct role in these wars, the government sells arms to states in the Middle East, contributing to the continuation of the conflicts and the flow of refugees.
Refugee camps that previously held 80 migrants now hold up to 2,500 – one in ten of them being children. The Calais ‘Jungle’ has made it to the news – where we have seen human lives left to rot in desperate conditions, huddling together to keep themselves warm.
More than 100,000 children have disappeared, raising fears that they could be exploited and trafficked. According to the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol, there is no protection given to the refugees in camps.
Those who make it through the journey alive to Europe and away from camps may breathe a sigh of relief. They escaped the violence they face at home. That’s before facing the reality of their new situation.
Huge austerity measures across Europe mean that they will be struggling to get decent housing, education and services. Right-wing governments and the media are fuelling anti-migrant racist propaganda to create division among communities and to divert attention from their neoliberal policies and place the blame on migrants.
Far-right groups and parties across Europe are stirring this anti-migrant sentiment to their advantage. In some countries the far right has gained in elections. In some, far-right groups have targeted migrants and refugees for attack.
Following the mass sexual assaults of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, the German right-wing media, alongside the far right, exploited the situation. They blamed the refugees for the assaults.
As a result of this, refugees were attacked. This despite the fact that only three out of the 58 men convicted were recently from Syria and Iraq.
The rhetoric about migrants stealing jobs and homes is far from the truth. In Britain, each asylum seeker only gets £36.95 a week to live on and they are not allowed to work. The few services that exist to support people once they are granted asylum – like language classes for example – are being cut just like other public services.
But inevitably there is a genuine concern from some working class people about the strain on services that have already been cut to the bone. But there are resources available – Britain is the fifth richest country in the world.
Despite mass opposition to the bombing of Syria, parliament voted in favour. In a short period of time they can find billions of pounds for war but claim there is not enough money to invest in vital services like the NHS. Austerity is an economic choice.
Instead of bombing and causing more people to be displaced, Britain could use the resources to take more people in and invest in jobs, social housing, education and healthcare for all.
David Cameron’s government has agreed to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years – 4,000 a year, 12 a day. This is pitiful. And even this they’re not implementing – in the last quarter of 2015 only 339 were granted asylum!
The Socialist Party fights for European governments to offer real help to refugees, alongside campaigning for investment in jobs, homes and services to support the whole population.
We also fight for a world where those who want to stay at home are able to instead of being forced to flee – a socialist world free from war, terror and poverty.
Plan the world’s resources to ensure everyone, everywhere in the world, has access to affordable homes, secure jobs, decent schooling and a future.
End the poverty gap and stop imperialist and sectarian conflicts. Fight for a society that puts people before profit and capitalist prestige.