EU borders, asylum seekers and deflated humanity

Does that matter which EU border you cross if you are fleeing from war?


Shazia Anwer Cheema December 04, 2021
The writer is a PhD scholar of Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University Prague. She can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @ShaziaAnwerCh

On November 24, a dinghy carrying 27 asylum immigrants deflated in the middle of its voyage in the English Channel — the narrow seaway separating France and United Kingdom — resulting in the death of 27 by drowning in frozen waters.

This was second disturbing news for me in one month because my TV screen had been showing hundreds of asylum seekers sleeping under the open sky in freezing temperature at the Polish-Belarus border just two weeks ago and now I was watching the news about dead bodies being recovered from the ice-covered English Channel. These two separate incidents took place at two different border crossings of Europe but victims in both incidents were the same — asylum seekers.

Experts and political leaders appearing on TV talk shows were only involved in blame game and cursing refugees for creating problems for border security personnel.

We had been watching such horrific scenes since the Middle East unrest intensified after the Libyan and Syrian crises that caused a snowball effect of accelerating immigration on humanitarian grounds. In the beginning, this engineered unrest was supposed to come under control and the entire process was presumed reversible. The first few installments of asylum seekers were warmly welcomed in Europe. The EU portrayed acceptance of asylum seeker by granting them status of refugees and then immigrants as an act of humanity and provided an opportunity to US/NATO to clear their guilt. Since 2015 the unending inflow of refugees from war-torn countries has become a concern for European countries. Political scenes of EU member states get the domestic advantage of the situation and get divided into pro and anti-refugee.

The general public also started raising the question of their welfare system being misused by providing social support to refugee families. An argument can still be heard that refugee families of five or six persons are living for social support and not willing to work and participate in the economy. The whisper has long been started that it is EU that is taking the brunt. Massive demographic shift now seems to threaten the core values of EU societies. Hungary being bold and brave spoke up first by telling the word “No more humanity pretention” and started building the infamous wall on its border with Serbia. All the so-called humane of the time criticised Hungary at that point, ironically all those humane are now eager to build the same wall on the EU Polish border. The UK even agrees to fund the wall and is ready to provide all other support required to block refuge seekers. Moreover, the UK boldly and bluntly said it would consider asylum applications from those coming through proper channel which must not be the English Channel. Since I heard that I am figuring out what could be the proper channel if someone is fleeing for life.

EU’s humanitarian claims got a severe blow when Belarus decided to lure NATO-affected population to EU countries, resulting in the real face of western humanity coming out of persona at the Poland-Belarus border. EU politicians declared the presence of refuge seekers as a ‘hybrid war’ and called refugees ‘political weapons’. Does that matter which EU border you cross if you are fleeing from war? If you get smuggled via Greece that is acceptable but human trafficking via Belarus is unacceptable. EU Parliament, discussing that current situation, has pointed out loopholes in the EU immigration and asylum system. On the contrary, I think they just discovered true subjective human nature. Everything comes back to square one if the EU had not become a party with the US to bomb the humans in order to save them in the Middle East and Afghanistan. There would not have been any need for this theatrical display of humanity by first displacing them and then giving them the honour of becoming refugees in EU.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2021.

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