smhwpf: (Way out)
[personal profile] smhwpf
I have never been so ashamed to be a European. God knows we have a horrific colonial history, and in the modern age there's the whole Neocolonial economic relationship of rich countries with the developing world and so forth.

But it is particularly appalling to witness the utter betrayal of hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees on and within our borders. The utter craven cowardice, the hypocricy, the abandonment of compassion and solidarity, the collective washing of hands.

Al Jazeera has been doing some excellent coverage of the tens of thousands stranded in Greece. Piling up in unofficial refugee camps with worse conditions than those on Syria's borders. Unaccompanied children with nowhere to go, vulnerable to people trafickers. The hundreds drowning in the Mediterranean, the thousands of women facing rape as one of the hazards of the journey - all not our problem. Somebody else's. As Hoda Abdul Hamid said on the AJ report today "The lonely children have been abandoned by everyone."

All are now closing their borders. Sweden, having briefly taken the moral path of openness in the autumn, has shut the gates; yes, some still have been getting through, but those that do (who have the right papers) will now get only temporary residency, making it much harder to integrate into society, and family reunions have been made much harder. Oh, at least we're still better than Denmark, we don't take their jewellery, yet. Cold comfort.

There is a direct link between these policies and the drowinings, rape and child traficking on the refugee road. Because in the past, family reunion was the one legal route to Sweden and other European asylum recipient countries. So a large proportion of the refugees arriving in Sweden and Germany were men, aiming to bring their families later. But now that option is closed off, and so the families must make the journey, with all its perils, themselves. But their suffering is apparently a price worth paying to give Migrationsverket (the immigration agency) a "breathing space".

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, when he addressed a pro-refugee rally in Medborgarplatsen in autumn spoke of openness, of the need for safe and legal routes, of not wanting a Europe of walls. But then the cry became "It's too hard! We can't cope! We need a breathing space!" As so many have commented, it is the Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans fleeing war who need a breathing space. To my mind, the government's decision was not only morally bankrupt but politically stupid. The government looks weak. That it has admitted that the Sweden Democrats were right all along. And it has pleased no-one, neither its progressive base, nor the anti-migrant voters who think Sweden should never have admitted so many in the first place. Löfven has the lowest ratings of any Prime Minister ever. It seems to me that the only sensible strategy was to ride the tiger, maintain the moral high ground, tell the Swedish people "It is hard, but we can cope. We are rich, we are resourceful, and we can do this. It will be hard in the short term, but it is the right thing to do, and in the long term we will be the richer for it."

Instead we had the pathetic sight of Deputy PM Åsa Romsön of the Greens crying as she joins Löfven of announcing the new measures. "Woe is me, that I am doing this terrible thing!" And yet she and her Green colleagues did it even so.

But back to Europe as a whole, and the horrendous preliminary deal struck with Turkey. From now on, all refugees reaching Greece are to be sent back to Turkey. A deal that flagrantly breaches the UN Refugee Convention, as there is no way Turkey can be considered a safe country. They do not have a functioning asylum system, they are rapidly slipping into dictatorship, imprisoning journalists and those who criticize the President. They just raided a major opposition newspaper, Zaman, closed it down, and reopened it as a government propaganda sheet. The peace process with the Kurds is dead, and the Turkish military have been pursuing an increasingly brutal campaign in the south-east. There are reports that they have sent Syrian refugees back to Syria. And they are a poorer country than most of Europe, and already home to 2.7 million Syrian refugees.

Then there is this bizarre "one-for-one" element of the deal - that for every refugee the EU sends back from Greece, Europe will take in one refugee from Turkey. How generous! We will take one refugee, but only if another sacrifices themselves by taking the risk of making the journey to Greece, braving the people smugglers and the Med, dodging the NATO boats trying to stop them, only to be sent back and put to the back of the queue for eventual resettlement.

Turkey is to get aid for this, supposedly for them to help the refugees on their soil. €3 billion, or maybe €6 billion. But if we can spend €6 billion so that Turkey can support 2.7 million refugees in their country of 75 million, then why can we not spend this money so that the EU's 400 million population can support considerably fewer? Or even as many? Ah, but it's OK for Turkey. They are already poor, and off-white, so they can take all the poor, off-white people.

In return we are also offering Turkey visa-free travel to Europe (good), and a restart of EU membership negotiations. How can we even talk about Turkey becoming an EU member when they are trampling on basic rights as they are? Oh well, Hungary and Poland are going that way anyway, so why worry.

And what is most shameful as a European, is that our governments are doing this in large measure in response to the views of the majority of their citizens. That even those, like in Sweden and Germany, who were more inclined to compassion and solidarity, have turned against the refugees. Cologne and Kungsträdgården were enough for that.

There are still those, so many, who help.The army of volunteers on Lesvos. Again, Al Jazeera has done some very good coverage of ordinary Greek people, despite their own grim economic circumstances, doing what they can to help through soup kitchens in Athens, providing food, clothing and blankets in Idomeni on the Macedonian border, and elsewehere. The Danish woman convicted of people trafficking for giving a lift and lunch to a family of refugees. So many helping across the continent in so many ways, big and small. These are signs of hope.

But those of us who favour compassion and solidarity towards refugees are, unfortunately a minority. Two weeks ago there were Refugees Welcome protests in 120 cities in 32 European countries. It is hard to find reports of them, apart from that one. I was at the one in Medborgarplatsen again, in Stockholm. But we were far, far, fewer. When Stefan Löfven flattered and lied to the crowds back in September, Medborgarplatsen was full to bursting. This time there was plenty of space, and only a part of the square filled. A few hundred maybe. It is good to have such events; but it is not enough.

I have never felt so ashamed to be a European.

Date: 2016-03-12 11:38 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-03-13 12:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smhwpf.livejournal.com
Thanks.

Not like I'm saying anything that plenty of other people haven't already said, but sometimes you feel you need to say it.

Date: 2016-03-12 11:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Hear, hear.

I'm truly ashamed of my government. I get that people think there's only so much we can do when everyone else does nothing; what I decidedly do not get is how nobody, but fucking NOBODY is prepared to stand up and say, "Here's what we've done right since the 40s, here's what we've built one of the richest societies in the world on, here's what what we will stand up for, here's the point where we will not back down." Instead, everyone is racing everyone else to the bottom, trying to find the best excuse to not do anything.

We will shut the borders. We will claim that we have done all we could do without giving up the slightest bit of comfort. We will tell ourselves we are the good guys. We will vote for the people who are happy to tell us this. And we will, in time, pay for it.

Date: 2016-03-13 12:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smhwpf.livejournal.com
We will claim that we have done all we could do without giving up the slightest bit of comfort.

Yeah, this.

I think the Vänsterpartiet is against the border closure and asylum restrictions? But even they have not been speaking very loud about it, or if they are no-one is listening.

Date: 2016-03-13 12:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
They are, for what good that does. Löfven has made it pretty clear that he'd rather call a new election than give them any influence whatsoever.

Then there's Centre, who as usual aren't saying anything that can be construed as an opionion on anything, which adds up to at least not being actively for tighter restrictions.

And FI, I suppose, but they've been keeping so quiet that I doubt if they'll even still exist come next election.

I still can't believe how quickly this happened. How it only took a few weeks from everyone standing up for what they said before the election, to doing a complete 180 to charm the voters who have bought into SD's fearmongering. And trying to sell it as "listening to the people", when the people voted for them when they said the opposite.

Date: 2016-03-13 12:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smhwpf.livejournal.com
Did you see Annie Lööf's take on it when she did an interview a while back? She said we should keep the borders open and let the refugees in, but we shouldn't worry about providing accommodation for them; they are very enterprising people to have made the journey, used to coping, so they can cope with Sweden's housing market. And we shouldn't worry about all the refugees breaking the Swedish welfare model - let's just break the Swedish welfare model! Yay! (I paraphrase slightly).

Date: 2016-03-13 12:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
I didn't see that, but yeah, sounds like her.

And to think, only two years ago, she looked like the lunatic fringe of the right. Then KD went full Tea Party, and suddenly Lööf looks like the sensible alternative.

Date: 2016-03-13 08:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katebacross.livejournal.com
Lovely, eloquent piece about a dreadful response to otherness. Well done for saying it.

Date: 2016-03-13 12:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smhwpf.livejournal.com
Thanks.

Date: 2016-03-13 12:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
I agree completely. Thank you for writing this.

Date: 2016-03-15 11:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smhwpf.livejournal.com
Thanks.

Date: 2016-03-13 03:25 pm (UTC)
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (racist!)
From: [personal profile] sabotabby
It's just gross. Borders are gross. Skin-crawlingly terrible. I'm embarrassed to be human.

Date: 2016-03-15 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smhwpf.livejournal.com
Yeah, they seem so normal and automatic, but they are fundamentally a terrible invention. Well, controlled borders at any rate.

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