Focus on refugee crisis: a challenge for the future
by Elsa Pacella (January 13, 2017)
Already since November 4th, 2016, the Canadian government hosted about 38,713 Syrian refugees under the resettlement programs, regulated by the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) in order to control the borders and criminality. Moreover, 18,112 refugee resettlement applications are in progress.
The peculiarity of the Canadian model is namely due to the multicultural aspect, typical of Québec, that characterizes the country, where people of different nationalities and minorities co-exist. It is exactly such remarkable aspect of co-existence of different cultures that differentiates Canada from the European approach towards the crisis. Canadians are used to the multiculturalism for many years and new incoming people from different countries, are not seen as a novelty and a danger neither. Additionally, refugees entering Canada usually receive a visa which authorizes them to freely travel in Canada.
Furthermore, the integration of refugees or migrants has always been successful and it never turned in assimilation, as it often does occur in other countries. Some weeks ago, the Economist reported a description underlining the way how such integration takes place and how multiculturalism is created. There are public schools with courses in different languages, mosques, and immigrants are fully accepted by the society which also considers them a benefit for the economy.
Could the adoption of the Canadian model be a real solution for Europe to bring down the curtain on the crisis? No, unfortunately not, due to the existing conditions which limit Europe in implementing a concrete and valuable deal. The European Union is mostly represented by the advance of populist, extremist and right-wing parties with a strong xenophobic and anti-immigration propaganda. Certainly, the terrorist attacks have worsened the situation in taking decisions as enforcing borders by building fences or setting up border checks, provoking the weakness of the civil society, who is even more scared of any foreigner crossing the European borders. Very recently, after the Berlin terrorist attack on 19th December 2016, Le Pen in France, Grillo (Five Star Movement) and Salvini (Lega Nord) in Italy, all of them have claimed the need to close Schengen borders.
Such conditions entail a lack of European dialogue, which is strongly required for a cooperation among the countries within the crisis. The EU refugee quota proposal, which was rejected by some countries is an example of such defect. From a certain point of view, also Brexit has been an example of no-cooperation, which is indeed embodied in an anti-Europeanism feeling.
However, if we take a look at the policies and measures adopted by the European Union during these years, certainly we can identify EU action plans, but not exactly similar to the Canadian integration programs. By the EU-Turkey agreement, signed in March 2016, Turkey hosted about 3.1 million of refugees. While Turkey received a refugee facility of 3 billion; the majority of Syrian refugees (90%) live in troubling conditions outside of refugee camps. Briefly, it is unthinkable and impossible for the European Union to be like Canada.
Over the last year, I have been a spectator of a deterioration of the migration crisis in Europe. I believed that 2016 was the year of changes and bearer of good news. I was convinced that Europe would have found at least a little solution to the current refugee crisis. And meanwhile, the numbers are increasing instead: 361,709 arrivals by sea in 2016 and 147 in 2017, 5.022 dead persons in the Mediterranean in 2016, more than 10 nationalities, 4 fences, 235 km of razor-wire barrier in Europe. These are the data linked to the word “European refugee crisis”.
What has been done so far? Whatever happened to the dream of Europe? The dream of a sympathetic, open and human Europe? It is time to build a dialogue, to cooperate and to be united. A New Year’s resolution is to come through this crisis, to recognize it as the first priority of the EU agenda and to make Europe to be united because I do not see any “union” today. What I see is a sort of “European agreement” among countries who forgot the real values of Europe that we decided to embrace, once we joined it. We should still believe in the dream of Europe if we want to solve the crisis. As Václav Havel claimed in one of his speeches, “without dreaming of a better Europe, we shall never build a better Europe. To me, the twelve stars in the European flag do not express the proud conviction that we will build heaven on this earth. There will never be heaven on earth. I see these twelve stars as a reminder that the world could become a better place if from time to time we had the courage to look up at the stars”.
Elsa Pacella is Junior Policy Analyst at Bridging Europe
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