I started writing this essay on a train from Slovenia to Croatia. Even though the barbed wire separating the two countries was widely reported on and I thus expected it, it still struck me. It stands there as a reminder of fear that seems to govern Europe at this moment in time. My experience at the border crossing upon exiting Slovenia was further thought-provoking. The police officer had asked me three questions which I found prejudicial and somewhat offensive: Why is my passport Slovenian if I am from Pag, Croatia? Did I find a partner in Slovenia and do I have apartments in Pag because he would like to sleep at my place?
His questions immediately made me wonder about the range of questions migrants and refugees are being asked when trying to cross the border. What kind of treatment do women have to endure when they are applying for asylum or subsidiary protection? None of us, the privileged ones on the inside of the Fortress Europe, can understand the struggle those people are going through. I find it regretful that cases were reported where some Greek police officers forged the official date of arrival to the country in order to send back to Turkey those migrants who should have been allowed to continue their journey. In Germany, the laws have been changing and as a result of those men who arrived first, planning to bring their families afterwards, cannot do it anymore.
Fundamental values on which Europe has been built demand a common reaction to the refugee crisis. Sexual discrimination and lack of education are problems we need to start talking about. European governments should understand the amount of responsibility they bear when deciding on the treatment of those people. This crisis has unfortunately often shown the opposite – a disappointing lack of treatment. The Mediterranean Sea has been transformed into a graveyard in the past two years. European countries seem to be putting more effort into protecting their borders than into protecting the lives of innocent people. Everyone is afraid of extremism and it is the fundamental social understanding that lack of education contributes to the creation of future generations of extremists. Education is a tool to combat violent ideologies. We need programs that would provide education for all the children and youth who have been coming to the European soil. Why can’t all children in the world have same opportunities and the same access to the education?
Besides education, we must provide migrants and refugees with work so they could become self-sustainable and in turn, contribute to the economies of our countries. If we provide them with education and work, we already started their inclusion in our societies. That is crucial if we want to create and preserve a healthy environment in our countries. Far right parties and an anti-immigration sentiment are on the rise in Europe. We have had enough of hatred and xenophobia. We need empathy and encouragement and we must all work together to achieve it.
In my opinion, Europe is presenting itself as the biggest victim of this crisis and it seems that the world forgot about the internally displaced people in Syria. Humanitarian aid can hardly reach them. They have no food and water. We were witnesses of dozens of colossal humanitarian tragedies in the past but unfortunately, we didn’t seem to learn much from them. If we don’t react soon we might lose entire generations of future leaders, doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers and other experts. Some people are afraid that taking in a large number of refugees might change a nation’s identity that they should think about how other cultures can enrich our countries and all of us personally. We shouldn’t let people die in conflict zones because we are afraid of change. I will finish with a quote by Mandy Hale: Change is painful but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.
Written by Anamarija Stupičić