An article by Stelios Kouloglou in Eldiario.es
Closure of borders from EU member-states and the carte blanche that the European Commission and the Council have attributed to Turkey to deal with the refugee crisis is a big, monumental failure of the European establishment. EU leaders are letting themselves fall into the hatred speech trap articulated by the far-right, causing the gradual empowerment of anti-migrant voices in Europe. In the meantime, EU leaders cannot convincingly explain why refugees pose such a big threat for Europe, why EU is split into two camps, and why Turkey that misses to implement the major international treaties on the protection of human rights is taking such an advantageous place as a mediator, at a time that Greece is faced with such mountainous burdens in terms of financing and sheltering the refugees.
All international treaties that protect the rights of the refugees have been thrown into the garbage. Towards reaching this appalling point, the role of the conservative forces in the EU was definite. Despite numerous efforts by many democratic forces in the European Parliament and leading European figures to keep borders open and safe, what we have now is a distorted agreement and a Union that cannot address a major challenge nor understand that it is at least ludicrous for a continent of 500 million citizens to be at odds with 1 or 2 million refugees entering its soil, when at the same time much smaller states in the Middle East, like Lebanon and Jordan, are hosting more than 2 million refugees.
Greece is the only EU member-state that despite the ongoing, deep-rooted financial crisis, is doing its best, having spent hundreds of millions of euro, showing solidarity in every possible respect. In this regards, acknowledging the big and consistent efforts of the local communities and the civil society, the GUE/NGL parliamentary group in Brussels, after my suggestion, is organizing, early June, a ceremony to honour all these people that showed and keep showing solidarity to the refugees. This event is part of our campaign to push for the nomination of the Greek people for the Peace Nobel Prize, for which we strongly believe that the people of Lesvos should be entitled to receive it.
Similarly important is the provision of education and schooling services for the children. The European Commission should invest and prioritize on this issue, enhancing the possibility for the refugees to get properly educated and have access to the labour market in equal terms with locals. In addition to that, the Greek Ministry of Health has passed a special regulation for refugees and immigrants granting them with free access to primary healthcare services, whereas the relevant Ministry of Education is drafting on a new proposal that would include refugees into the tertiary and technical education.
All these efforts depart from the very same point. That refugees are people like us. They simply had to flee from war and survive. As long as the EU cannot properly perceive this reality and keep resorting to deterrence policies that violate human rights, the entire European establishment will be soon under serious threat.
*Stelios Kouloglou is Syriza MEP, journalist