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Dangerous or Desperate?

"Clearly the refugee crisis is enormously complex. With each area are unique strains and circumstances, that have to be looked at separately for any hope of resolution."

Orla Hartshorne

Naked Politics Blogger

For the past few months, it’s been easy to forget, or rather push to the back of our minds, the ever-growing refugee crisis that’s widespread throughout Europe and the Middle East. The media, especially the right-wing press, has seemed to have fallen almost ignorantly silent on showing us the reality of millions of refugees and their struggles to seek asylum and settle in their country of refuge. The media coverage that has trickled through has been of refugee’s rioting on the Macedonian border, protesting at the camps in Calaisand Dunkirk as they’re cleared and coverage of the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne and increased sexual attacks by refugees in Germany. Public opinion now seems split. Are the refugees desperate and in need of our help, or are the increasing levels of violence and crime in areas playing key roles in the refugee crisis something that should alarm us?

Recent events at the self-erected ‘Jungle’ camp at Calais give us an insight into the conflict between refugees and government rife throughout Europe, with French riot police destroying the makeshift shelters in the camp. Refugees and migrants have begun throwing stones at police with police retaliating with tear gas canisters in order to clear the crowded camps. Refugees and migrants were evidently alarmed, having been removed once again from their homes. Although it’s understandable that French authorities want to make camps safe and conditions liveable, the consequences of removing the camps simply means refugees and migrants disperse and settle in other camps along the Normandy coast with equally abysmal conditions to the ‘Jungle’.  Isn’t it reasonable that these refugees, who have already experienced so much hostility, take offence and react violently towards more resettlement, more confusion and more distress?

Similarly, Greece is currently in crisis with over 100,000 people having reached Europe, predominantly through Greece, by March 2016 after crossing the Mediterranean, compared to last year where it took 6 months for 100,000 migrants to reach Europe. Not only is Greece under enormous pressure with government representatives imploring they ‘cannot bear the strain of all the refugees coming here’, but Macedonia has stopped all Afghans crossing its border from Greece, exacerbating the already dire situation further. Riots have been widespread along the Macedonian border with Afghans and the UNCHR resentful of this measure. The protests and tensions may be high in areas the refugee crisis is most pressing, but these refugees have the right to stand up in order to be treated with humanity; personally, I’d be reacting in the same way.

However, if we look to Germany, a country more open and accepting of refugees and migrants in the past year, crime and violence linked to the refugees seems to be on the increase. The attacks in Cologne on New Year’s Eve are just one example, where allegedly groups of migrant men raped, assaulted and robbed women in the city, with over 500 victims coming forward. The backlash from this has been severe with major increases in race-based violence. Some Germans have felt the surge of migrants is too great; which is also highlighted in recent regional election successes of the AfD (Alternative for Germany), a right-wing, anti-immigration party. Surely in a country that has opened its arms to refugees and migrants so warmly, you would expect less violence and more harmony within communities? However, due to the migration influx, the EU is dealing with large numbers of unaccompanied young men who are potentially vulnerable to corrupt influences; this coupled with a feeling of hopelessness and impoverished conditions can only make the chance of violence increasingly likely.

Clearly the refugee crisis is enormously complex. With each area are unique strains and circumstances that have to be looked at separately for any hope of resolution. I can empathise with refugees and migrants protesting on the Macedonian borders or on Greek Islands, where low morale is rife and conditions dire. Similarly, with tensions peaking between authorities and migrants, the situation in Calais can be empathised with as after travelling so far and suffering such hardship. Having your shelter torn down would evoke powerful anger and resentment, which could easily convert into violence. It’s clear the EU needs to create an action plan on how to deal with the refugee crisis and relocate people already in Europe to safe places where they can begin to rebuild their lives, as quickly as possible.

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I cannot imagine anyone risking so much only to live in such appalling conditions. It would be undeniably ignorant to deny the fact that migrants and refugees are being treated unfairly and with a staggering lack of compassion throughout Europe. Because of this I can confidently say, with a shameful amount of evidence behind me, that the refugees are desperate to the point of doing anything to survive and be recognised as a significant global issue. If anything, it seems that violence and dangerous situations only erupt in areas of injustice or where large numbers of migrants are concentrated in abject conditions with little to look forward to or even live for, making violence almost inevitable. It would be fair to say the European community; failing to produce any real solution is at fault, not the refugees themselves.

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