Tag Archives: Refugees

Thank you Germany to show the obligation of ethics. The migrant’s flow that is changing the face of Europe.


The migrants that arrive alive to the shores of our south European countries or jump the fences erected in Central-Eastern Europe, represents the biggest exodus of people after WWII in Europe and are changing the face, and soon also the policies, of the continent. Europe in one century will be like the United States: a land of immigrants. Refugees and economic migrants arriving in hundreds of thousands, and in the future probably in millions, will not be stopped by the fences that Hungary is building on the 110 miles of border with Serbia (anyway soon Croatia will be also in the Schengen area). These migrants will not be fend off by the racist attitudes that a a nationalist conservative prime minister of a landlocked country is trying to create in Europe (looking to the fortresses of the past instead of to the bridges of the future). These immigrants on the opposite will be welcome by the European values of tolerance, democracy and universalism, that today are stronger than its fears. Neither economic depressions nor fear of invasions will make us Europeans to go back to the barbarity of nationalism, fascism and nazism. And exactly the best part of Germany, both with its leadership and its people, showed to Europe and the world in these days what it means the Kantian duty of ethics. Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, foresaw a “perpetual peace” based not only on republicanism and federalism but on “universal hospitality”: this is what all Europe, with Germany in the first row, today has to show. German people experienced on their skin what does it mean to be refugee after WWII and so they have to fight against the xenophobia that is present in some part of the population and right wing party (like in Austria, that today also showed its best part with the caravan of cars going to Hungary to pick up the refugees). Ms Merkel said it well: there has to be zero tolerance for hate and xenophobia.

But there is more than fight between tolerance and racism in this epochal change. In the same way as the internal migration among European states created what is today the European culture, maintaining the diversity of each country but also integrating them in a common identity, the people from the Maghreb, the Levant of Middle East and farther, will create a Euro-Mediterranean identity based also on South and Southeastern peripheries of the continent (like Russian people will do with the Eastern periphery). Even if European institutions don’t want to expand yet to its southeast border (first of all Turkey) people will create naturally a European enlargement decades before the European Union will expand. It is a normal and natural process, as migrations cannot be blocked, neither with walls nor with fears, in particular if they are the result of wars that Europe didn’t want to stop or that even facilitated. And here we come to the third effect of these migrations: they will not change only the face of the continent but they will also modify its institutions and its policies, both foreign and internal policies.

Europe cannot escape anymore from its own responsibilities in keeping the Middle East and Africa backwards and in constant conflict, from centuries of colonialism to the current Western wars and arms trade. From the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the Syrian proxy war and Libyan military intervention, the EU, guided by the US, is looking today at the effects of its recent actions. These effects don’t remain anymore only in the region (keeping the Middle East exceptionalism in the failure of democracy and development) but arrives to our own territories with the migratory event, with its security, economic, social and cultural consequences. Therefore our governments cannot play anymore with the fire hiding the hand: they will have to deal with the consequences of their actions and this will put foreign policies into question. Germany is the less involved in these failed foreign policies (it opposed strongly Iraq war and Libyan intervention for example) and at the same time is the country that assumes more responsibility. Sure, also because its growing economy and markets need worker and citizens with a new drive of building a better life, but also because if Germany wants to become the real leader of European integration it has to do it with legitimacy and ethics. Anyway Germany cannot be the only one to take the burden of the crisis on its shoulders, and the costs but also the benefits of millions of migrants (that will sustain an ageing continent and its pensions system) will have to be shared. Even if the UK is obviously the less affected by the migratory crisis it is the main responsible for the Middle East situation, and so together with the US will have to assume its responsibility too. Cameron said that UK has the most migrants of all the European nations, but forgot to say that (a part one million of polish coming during Blair era) these migrants mostly came from the Commonwealth, so were not refugees in needs of help but almost English citizens already.

Therefore this crisis will shake and change Europe and will make the continent to think twice in the future also on its foreign policy, and may be a sustainable, development oriented, foreign policy in the outskirts of the continent will see the light sooner or later. As we did for the ex-Yugoslavia we need to help these populations to not become refugees, and the refugees that are in neighboring countries to be protected and helped. Also, this crisis already changed the Dublin rule that asylum seekers are required to claim a refuge in the first EU state they arrive in, but will also make Europe think to more internal integration, less frontiers and a real European citizenship for the future. So migrations, and in general the elements of globalization, are having strong effects on state sovereignty: the modern countries have to rethink their integration and citizenship policies based on new realities of nation states, member states and federal states.

Thank you Germany, this time you showed what does it mean to be a great power, a great democracy and a great leader: it takes “power and morality”, as Edward Carr would have said. An ethical and not authoritarian leader is what we need for a new Europe. Look and learn UK: forza European democracy and integration.

I care or I don’t mind. The distinction between democracies and dictatorships in the refugee crisis of Southeast Asia

Simon Kneebone

Europe has been recently criticized because of lack of generosity, vision and wisdom in treating the “problem” of refugees. Emergencies always make states to act on the wave of emotions (like for the thousands of migrants died recently in the Mediterranean Sea) but emotions are not good advisors for long term and efficient policies. Actually apart the fight against the traffickers the EU just decided some quotes for the refugees to host for each European country and this is not going to work at the root of the problem, which is the situation of poor countries in Africa and Middle East, with conflicts that provoke the migration of refugees. But at least it showed that the EU starts to care about other human beings, suffering from poverty and violence to which Europe greatly contributed.

Now is the time of South East Asia, to deal with the emergency of refugees. ASEAN has the same problems of coordination of EU, plus it has no instruments to impose the respect of human rights inside its member countries. ASEAN for example every year criticizes Burma’s treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority and its poor response to the religious clashes, but ASEAN has among its principles the “non-interference” one, as all countries know that they have some problems and they prefer not to bother the other members in order not to be bothered in the future. But the reality is that ASEAN will have to deal sooner or later with common principles, like the respect of human and minority rights, if it want to become a real integrated community based on collective security and democratic principles. Burma for example, even if it will have its first elections at the end of this year, still struggle to be defined a democracy. A democracy care about its people, cannot imagine to kill its people in order to do a leap in its development for example (like in Chinese Great Leap Forward). A democracy needs to care about its ethnic groups, that in Burma are nothing less than 135, either if they have citizenship or not, as all the resident in a country have to be protected by their sovereign state. Even a noble peace price like Aung San Suu Kyi didn’t act at the height of her name, given the fact that because of religious power of Buddhism in Burma, she doesn’t express what should be a normal worry of a Nobel peace prize, for a minority mistreated and discriminated. The same problem of democracy can be said for Thailand, that didn’t want to welcome the poor refugees, until the EU and the international community protested and Thailand had to organize an international conference on this issue today, the 30th of May, in which nothing was decided. Thailand also is not anymore a democracy since one year, when a military junta took power, as usual in a country whose history has been dominated by military dictatorships.

The future will say if Burma and also Thailand will be able to mature on their path to democracy and if ASEAN will be able to increase its level of integration and efficiency, closer to that of EU. But for now we can say that only the generosity of poor fishermen in Aceh, Indonesia, was able to save the life of hundreds of people, while the nation states remained still, watching the situation. Together with few NGOs working on helping refugees, these fishermen were the only people that “cared” about other human beings in a suffering situation, instead of turning the head to the other side, being them also people that have suffered in their recent history (the 2004 Tsunami killed hundreds of thousand of people in a region tormented by thirty years of civil war). We can conclude that elites in democracies have to turn to their most poor citizens, if they want to learn how to improve their abilities of caring and protection, a fundamental criteria to define a democracy.
(For info and for helping a local NGO in Aceh: https://www.facebook.com/yayasangeutanyoe).

Cartoon image: Simon Kneebone

EU where are you in the refugees crisis?


Europe contributed with its colonialism, postcolonialism, recent military interventions and proxy wars to the backwardness and conflicts in its periphery of North Africa and Middle East for the last two centuries, now she has to do something first of all for the humanitarian catastrophe and then for the stabilization of the region…by will or by force. Until Europe will not start foreign policies with long vision and will not stand up to its role of real regional power, helping the countries in the south of Mediterranean to develop with security, there will be more suffering like the recent tragedy, where almost one thousand people died.

For every shipmaster the obligation to render assistance at sea in normal, and for Italian Cost Guard too, also because we have a geography and history made on the sea….but for the EU is not the same, that is why Frontex, the new program of the EU for the refugee crisis, complains often about rescues outside our territorial waters. The point is: does the EU understand that this is an epochal event that cannot be restricted to rules of frontiers? The actions of the Italian Cost Guard and now also of Medici Senza Frontiere going outside territorial waters near Libya to rescue who is calling for help is like going directly to Libya to help them, as nobody is trying to solve the conflicts in that country and in the others, that finally have been created by us…

There is no way EU can build bridges for millions of people from Africa and Middle East in the next decades…it is unsustainable. But the EU at least can think strategically and act wisely in three direction. Emergency rescue is the first one, but is not going to be enough, it is just a temporary solution. Secondly we need a new refugee policy (with long term integration plans for a new force that the immigrants could represent for Europe in crisis). And finally, but this has to be done with all the international community that is also absent or not fully engaged (in primis the UN): new mediation efforts to solve the conflicts that we fueled and new foreign policies to foster structural development of those regions in the long run. There is no easy solution but these are important paths to follow. For now, as the political will languishes, the EU just thinks about emergency, but unfortunately it is again with the fortress idea. Fighting the traffickers is not going to change the need of millions of people to escape from wars and poverty. The EU doesn’t speak about rescue, protection, shelter or immigration policies. Just bomb the boats before they leave. This is like confuse the causes with the effects. Traffickers and boats are not the causes, are the effects of the problems of conflicts and poverty the people are living.

We are not going far, and I see decades of troubles in front of us…as Gramsci said we need the pessimism of the intelligence and the optimism of the will. May God welcome those perishing in the water, who from hopeless became hopeful for a short time. They were just looking for a better life.