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World

The violent repression of refugees at our Eastern European borders

Translated Monday 31 August 2015, by Philippa Griffin

Hungary has erected a vast fence and is mobilising troops to keep out refugees, not stinting on forceful methods. European leaders have responded to this humanitarian crisis merely with cold, “rational” calculations.

The “West Balkans Way”, taken by thousands of refugees who hope to enter Western Europe, has found itself thrust to the top of the agenda at the Vienna Summit, which opened this Thursday 27th August. Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, fleeing persecution and war, pass in their thousands through Turkey, then onwards through Greece, Macedonia (which has now declared a state of emergency) and Serbia before hitting Hungary, the door to the Schengen Area.

The incumbent political party in Hungary, Fidesz, wishes to request that the European Parliament authorise the deployment of the army at the Serbian border, and the government has announced that over 2,000 policemen will be dispatched to the region. A high metal fence studded with barbed wire is under construction along the entire length of the border, in order to prevent the passage of refugees. It should be complete by the beginning of next week. The Hungarian Parliament will be meeting for a special session in order to agree how to toughen their sanctions against migrants, in particular regarding illegal border crossings and acts of “vandalism” against the new fence.

On Wednesday, Hungarian police forces threw tear gas on a large group of migrants to disperse around 200 who refused to comply with the process of electronic fingerprinting. On Tuesday, a record number of 2,500 refugees arrived in Hungary, a significant proportion of over 140,000 since the beginning of the year. From Hungary, refugees hope to continue on into Western Europe, in particular Germany and Great Britain. In stark contrast to the inhuman stance of the authorities, many Hungarians show great solidarity with the refugees, bringing not only large quantities of food, clothes and medicine, but also news from Syria.

“Non-solutions”

In Vienna, political leaders are gathering together, including leaders from the West Balkans, Angela Merkel and the EU Chief Diplomat Federica Mogherini. The German Chancellor is full of “rational” calculations. She is pushing to establish a list of “valid” states in order to build a unified system of right to asylum. Her aim is ultimately to sift “real” refugees from Kosovan and Albanian asylum seekers in order to facilitate the barring or deportation of the latter. The French Communist Party laments that “Ms. Merkel is exploiting the tragedy that has befallen both refugees and asylum seekers from countries such as Syria, Iraq and Eritrea. In so doing she blurs the distinction between refugees and immigrants, thus reinforcing the stigmatisation of immigrants in general.”

“Sorting” the refugees is an obsession shared by Bernard Cazeneuve, the French Minister of the Interior, who wants to establish a reception and “sorting” centre to be financed by the EU. This centre “should kick into force at the moment that refugees cross external EU borders in Greece and Italy and should allow authorities to distinguish between those who are entitled to refugee status in Europe...and those who migrate for purely economic reasons, so that “we can better organise...the return of migrants who are motivated only by economic factors”. The French Communist Party does not consider these “sorting centres” as the solution, much less a political ideal. Countries such as Greece and Italy, which host the refugees upon arrival, cannot address the situation alone. The only way forward is therefore to revoke the Dublin Directives, which at present oblige refugees to remain in the worst possible conditions in their place of arrival and to somehow procure the financial means necessary to present themselves as asylum seekers.


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