January 23, 2016
Genval, 22 January 2016 – Refugees have became the most popular scapegoat of European politics and the No.1 challenge of the European integration. While media focuses mainly on spectacular elements such as dismantling Schengen or emerging razor wire fences, little attention was paid to the health status of refugees so far.
This is why I was very pleased that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation – including doctors, nurses and psychologists – broke the ice of silence and was brave enough to speak on behalf of those vulnerable people who do not have a voice and put spotlight on a public health emergency which is happening at our doorstep.
In the current political climate, after the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks and the mass-harassment of women in Köln, it is very unpopular to defend the basic human rights of ‘real refugees’: those who had to leave their homeland because of civil war. I too often see people speaking about ‘them’ to take ‘my place’, to take ‘my job’ and ‘my identity’ (“This is Mein Land!“). In addition to that politics shamelessly abuses the fear and uncertainity of people to mask important societal problems and political failures.
However, we should never make generalisation. The huge mass a refugees is not a homogene group, and of course criminality and security problems are present but that should have never been used as an excuse for Europe to fail “in its responsibility to respond to the urgent needs of assistance and protection of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people.” According to the report released by MSF, this is exactly what happened: “In denying vulnerable people dignified reception conditions, and blocking and pushing back people based on their nationality rather than vulnerability and risk of persecution, European states have eroded the very foundations of international refugee and human rights law. “
Damning verdict. It would be easy to make counter examples and disagree with me but my advice would be that have a look at the report below first and try to re-consider your thoughts about refugees as there are real people behind those numbers.
Killer facts from the MSF report
– Between 1 January and 31 December, an estimated 1,008,616 people fled to Europe
– 84% came from refugee-producing countries, with 49% from Syria, 21% from Afghanistan and 9% from Iraq
– 17% were women and 25% were children under the age of 18
– As of 3 November 2015, 14 member states had collectively made 2,284 places available out of the 160,000 European relocation pledge and only 86 people had effectively been relocated from Italy.
– Between 1 January and 15 December 2015, MSF teams provided just under 100,000 , medical consultations to refugees and migrants on its search and rescue vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, in Italy, Greece and throughout the Balkans. Between May and December 2015, MSF rescued and assisted 23,747 refugees and migrants at sea.
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