On August the 28th, the world opened its eyes to a truly heart-wrenching tragedy. This was an unprecedented incident that became a milestone in the refugee crisis striking the Europe for a while: a total of 71 Syrian refugees - 59 men, eight women and four children - including a young one-year-old girl among them – were found dead in a truck abandoned on an Austrian motorway.
71 people who had to leave behind their homes, neighborhoods, jobs, relatives, dreams and hopes only to be crammed into an air-tight truck used for frozen chicken. A misery that makes you feel a tug on your heartstrings when one thinks of those mothers, grandfathers and toddlers who genuinely deserve an honorable and safe life, as befits any other person in this world. However the war-torn countries in the Middle East leave these desperate people not a lot of choices other than opting for a perilous journey in the hope of reaching Europe.
With this gruesome incident, the refugee crisis in Europe took a new turn with the European leaders’ immediate attention turning to it. At the Vienna Conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a personal remark saying that she was deeply shaken by the awful news. She stated, “This reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find solutions in the spirit of solidarity.”
However, the way in which some European governments handled the surge in migrants thus far has presented an overall offensive portrait. Some governments have refused to accept refugees while others declined to agree to European Union proposals for a common plan to overcome the crisis.
The practices of some governments, on the other hand, were “inhumane” in the truest sense of the word: The Hungarian police fired tear gas at refugees trying to overcome the barriers and enter the EU-member state. On the Greek Island of Kos, on the other hand, police sprayed fire extinguishers at migrants and hit them with batons. In a stadium where up to 2,500 migrants were locked for 24 hours with no – or very little – food or water, the riot police used sonic grenades to maintain order among mothers with children and elderly people waiting for immigration papers. The UN refugee agency called the way the Greek government responded the migrants “totally shameful.” The International humanitarian-aid organization Doctors Without Borders [Médecins Sans Frontières] also confirmed that the majority of migrants do not have access to basic hygiene facilities and are subjected to abuse by police.
The practices of the governments were not only criticized by the humanitarian-aid organizations. The French Foreign Minister Laureant Fabius raised his voice against the policies of the eastern European states, and particularly slammed Hungary for having a “scandalous” migrant policy. He said Hungry was going against the values of the European Union by the fence it's building along its border with Serbia to prevent migrants from gaining access to the passport-free Schengen Zone.
The only thing these desperate people, compelled to flee their war-stricken countries, expected was a welcome. What they faced instead was abuse and ill-treatment by their host countries’ police officers and border guards.
While addressing the refugee crisis, the host countries must keep one important fact in mind:
This world is not a safe haven for any one. No matter who he is or where he lives, every individual in this world is vulnerable to any ordeal at any time. Be it natural or man-made, a disaster or an unexpected accident may wreck havoc on a person’s life at any moment. When faced with such an ordeal, a person who is in the position of extending a helping hand can suddenly find himself in a state of need. That is why ‘the spirit of solidarity’ that Chancellor Merkel spoke of is one key value that will overcome the refugee problem that Europe has faced today.
Rather than any material or financial power, it is love, kindness, cooperation and empathy that will drive people and nations to offer help to the needy. Love sees no obstacles. Empathy does not excuse any pretexts when helping the needy is the issue.
All the crises in the world can be overcome, only if we have some love for other human beings in this world.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Albanian Daily News: