GENEVA, Oct. 24, 2015 – When it comes to stemming the flow of refugees fleeing from Syria’s crescendoing carnage or Ukraine’s disastrous war, the new plan by EU members seems to be either to pass the buck back to Turkey or to simply ignore the problem. Not since WWII has the continent experienced such a forced exodus of fleeing masses looking not for just stability, work, and asylum, but for a reprieve from death, destruction and the threat of potential indiscriminant execution by the several factions in the region’s conflicts.
But while the surge of refugees is constantly growing, the commitment to the humanitarian needs of the families and individuals looking towards the West for help seems to be diminishing. The sad, cold hard fact of the situation is that UN agencies are broke due to the mammoth scale of the refugee crisis and the lack of funding. It is coming down to the huge cost of processing and housing these beleaguered masses, which is making EU members start to turn a blind eye to the crisis.
The EU’s tepid empathetic response to the crisis gravely puts into question their true commitment to the millions of Syrian refugees flooding into countries like the Balkans, and then on to Germany. Last week’s consolidated agreements by European Union governments to step up the deportations of what they consider illegal immigrants, who have failed to win asylum, show that empathy is quickly turning to apathy among the EU members.
The question we must ask ourselves today is whether the European Union is losing its original core values in regard to the way it sees its obligations to non-EU populations.
Angela Merkel’s recent visit to Turkey to establish some kind of a buffer zone to stop the refugees in their tracks appears to be trying to both make Europe look less ineffectual and to reiterate its commitments to the crisis by awarding Turkey a fast track visa process to enter the EU and €3 billion in aid, basically as a bribe.
But as Europe is pushed to the brim by the mass exodus of refugees from the Middle East, the other gushing faucet of refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) is Ukraine, where the indecisiveness of European leaders, each enmeshed in complicated webs of competing interests with Putin’s Russia, and the fickleness of Kiev’s ruling class have made a bad crisis worse.
According to the UN secretary general for human rights, Ivan Šimonović, as of September 2015, over 8,000 human beings have been killed in Ukraine. Over 1.5 million more have fled their homes to other parts of the country for a more stable and safer living environment, while approximately 900,000 have left Ukraine altogether, adding to the EU’s refugee woes. But as Ukraine loses the spotlight in western world politics, so diminishes the EU’s focus on the problems facing the newly self-liberated Ukraine, still fresh from Putin’s grip.
For his part, Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko continues to blame Russia for all of Ukraine’s problems. Putin’s manipulations certainly cause problems and contribute to instability in Ukraine, but Poroshenko himself has yet to fulfill many of his promises to his people. Many of his failures are not directly related to Russia, despite Poroshenko’s efforts to attribute all failings to Putin.
Poroshenko’s government has thus far failed to provide for its own population, which is desperately in need of humanitarian assistance. Provided with a mere $20 a month, Ukraine’s internally displaced are often left to fend for themselves, struggling to find work and accommodation, with a mere 5 percent living in officially designated facilities. Meanwhile, many refugees have fled to Russia and Poland, with Poland’s Office for Foreigners announcing that there has been a 50-fold increase in Ukrainians asking for refugee status from 2013 to 2014.
While the EU has its eyes turned elsewhere, Poroshenko is failing to conform to the values of a union he seeks to join and is losing the support of his citizens, who are fed up with corruption and widespread economic and social problems.
Besides the cratering support levels for him and his government, many opposition figures are waiting in the wings to take a chance at power. Ihor Kolomoiskiy, the billionaire former governor of Dnipropetrovsk, is maneuvering in the shadows to replace Poroshenko, Yulia Timoshenko is making a comeback of her own and heads the country’s second largest party, while gas mogul Dmitry Firtash is allegedly being considered for the prime minister’s office.
The EU has miserably failed in its abilities to step up as a major united world power. It has also failed to help put an end to so many conflicts, uprisings, political upheavals and crises that have been plaguing its own members.
The catastrophic wound of Syria has not even been staunched so far, let alone been surgically or strategically attended to by the EU. The European Union’s new policy of the “outside containment” of hundreds of thousands of refugees, which was recently agreed to by its members, is akin to a doctor letting patients lie bleeding in the streets, while he stands back and simply waits for someone else to call an ambulance. This policy not only degrades the EU’s professed commitment to the human dignity and welfare of the people from these afflicted regions of the continent, but also calls into question how long that pledge will last.