Željana Zovko

Objavljeno: 27.2.2018.

Arrival of a new wave of refugees is only a matter of time

Millions of refugees fleeing from the Arab Spring and wars in Libya and Syria were accommodated in camps in Turkey, Lebanon… The majority of them see their future in Europe. – points out this week’s columnist from the European Parliament.

Željana Zovko

In a couple of months, the focus of the European policy in Brussels and Strasbourg shifted to the Western Balkans again. With the new EU Strategy for the Western Balkans, presented in Strasbourg, Europe returned majestically after the changed narrative and a rest from „enlargement fatigue“, a term so frequently used in Brussels and other European capitals.

The refugees’ crisis of 2015 opened the Balkans route and the forthcoming migration threats stirred up the dormant technocratic approach and the policy came up with a clearer and braver vision to be applied on closing the so-called “black hole”, which developed into a threat to peace and security of the European borders.

What has actually been happening since the last enlargement in 2013, when the Republic of Croatia became a member of the EU? Why was the approach changed? The world, we all knew so far, is not the same anymore and will never be the same again. It has been ten years since the large economic crisis, which struck the USA in 2008 and spilled over to Europe. The USA was dealing with the problem of having lost the middle class and trying to figure out what had gone wrong. At the same time, they were struggling to recover the American economy.

Europe on its part was going through the very same process, closing the state frames and blaming Brussels for everything. In the meantime, economies of big countries as China and India were booming. Africa, which is a wonderful source of resources, but constantly struggling to maintain stability and sustainability of its systems, had a huge demographic boom.

The Arab Spring and wars in Libya and Syria produced enormous waves of refugees. Millions were accommodated in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Pakistan. I visited Pakistan and Lebanon last year as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Development Committee of the European Parliament, where I had an opportunity to visit the refugee camps. Lebanon, which is the only country where Christians still have an equal status and participate equally in the government, received 2 million refugees from Syria and Palestine and has been keeping them for years now, even though they pose a threat to the fragile balance between the Christians and Shia and Sunni Muslims. The majority of those refugees see a safer future in Europe.

Pakistan is returning the refuges to Afghanistan through the process of repatriation. I witnessed such returns when I visited the camp in Peshawar. However, Afghanistan is far from being a safe place for living and it is only a matter of time when those people are going to set off to Europe in search of safety. There are millions of refugees in Turkey as well and regardless of continuous debates about the human rights and freedom of media, the EU allocates a lot of its funds to Turkey, as agreed, in an attempt to prevent the wave of refugees to turn to Europe again.

I spent a week before Christmas in Niger, as a member of the mission of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. In Niger, the European units are helping the African partners to fight the people smuggling in order to stop refugees trafficking, which is actually one of the most profitable industries in Niger, developed after the period of instabilities, after which the tourists stopped coming to this beautiful country. When you listen to testimonies of these refugees about unimaginable horrors they had experienced before having reached Libya, who were sold as human slaves and lost members of their families, you feel so weak, so impotent before the evil acting though people and their actions, through wars, in which the weakest ones suffer the most.

After returning from the mentioned world crisis areas to the Western Balkans and its problems pertaining for decades, I wondered how much political prudence these countries need for a better sense for compromise and for a different problem-resolving approach, to help themselves not to take the role of a safe harbour in the close future, in which the refugees will only come and wait to come closer to the Promised Land.

 

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