Europe’s Original Sin: What Asylum Policy Says about the EU

Published on Spiegel Online International, an Essay by Jürgen Dahlkamp, Sept 22, 2014.

European asylum policy is a messy compromise that has led to vast suffering on the EU’s external borders. But having become used to our prosperity, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s time to talk about asylum, about our European Union with its execrable policy based on deterrence, fortification and deportation. It’s time to talk about the fact that people are starving, drowning and otherwise suffering on their way to our borders. And it’s time to address the question as to why these things happen every day: today, tomorrow and the day after that.

It’s time, in other words, to talk about the culprits: red wine, the Volkswagen Golf and strawberry cake … //

… The Beginning of Isolation: … //

… Repository for Hypocrisy: … //

… A Messy Compromise:

  • Such blind spots can just as easily be found on the other side, among those lobbying on behalf of the asylum seekers, among aid groups and among the kindhearted. They point their fingers at the EU and demand that member states accept more refugees, noting that places such as Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon have together taken millions of people fleeing the Syrian civil war while the EU has only taken a few tens of thousands. All of which is true. But people on this side of the debate never say what Europe’s maximum should be. They never talk about how and where immigration should be regulated. The idea of an upper limit is a poison with which pro-asylum groups don’t wish to contaminate themselves.
  • Their support of the needy is honorable. But as long as their pro-immigration arguments aren’t accompanied by a renouncement of red wine, VW Golfs and strawberry cake, they are also disingenuous. Someone has to make the resources available for unchecked immigration. And in this case, “someone” is another word for the state and the EU. But to support unlimited immigration, the state would have to grab much deeper into our pockets, to the point that it could endanger our comfortable prosperity. Would asylum supporters, would the population at large, accept such a thing to help our fellow human beings and to put an end to our horrific policy focused on keeping people out?
  • No. Otherwise we would have done so long ago.
  • Asylum policy is a messy compromise, somewhere on the continuum between saintly and heartless. The only goal should be that of coping with the suffering, that of the refugees themselves and our own, moral distress. But how that is done is important. If a compromise is going to be messy, it should at least be the best possible messy compromise. European, and German, asylum policy hasn’t gotten there yet.
  • Limiting asylum rights only to those people who are being persecuted is a distortion — an arbitrary curtailment — of the right to a dignified life. Do people facing death by starvation have less of a right to assistance than people facing death via torture? Do we really want to keep out those who have nothing to eat while accepting those who are oppressed? Economic desperation is not grounds for asylum according to German law.
  • Germany points to its past — to the fact that hundreds of thousands of Germans left the country to escape the clutches of the Nazi regime — when making the moral case for the need to accept refugees. But that offers little justification for why economic refugees should be rejected. If Germany is able to accept more refugees, it must broaden its definitions to include the poorest of the poor.

How We Are:

  • But a fair distribution of the burdens within the European Union must also be addressed. It makes no sense, for example, that Italy alone must finance its naval operations aimed at pulling ship-wrecked would-be refugees out of the water. The operation is called “Mare Nostrum,” or Our Sea. The EU treats it as mare vestrum, your sea, your costs. The Italians have understandably grown tired of the status quo.
  • And then there is the Dublin Regulation, the convention which mandates that asylum seekers often have to remain for years in the country where they first set foot in the EU. That, too, disadvantages country’s on the EU’s periphery. They are overwhelmed, a situation which leads to asylum seekers being poorly treated. A distribution system based on the population of EU member states is also problematic, but it would almost certainly be preferable to the current arrangement.
  • Last year, the EU border control agency Frontex intercepted more than 100,000 refugees on Europe’s external borders. They believe that number will be even higher this year. In North Africa, in particular, there is currently a vast number of people waiting to take a chance at reaching the prosperous shores of Europe. The stampede on its borders has forced Europe to take a clear look at a decision it has long since made. Every day, people are dying because Europeans would like to hang on to their prosperity. Mercy is calibrated according to the dreadfulness of the images that we have such a hard time digesting.
  • We don’t like what we have become. But that’s how we are.

(full text).

Asylum/Refugee – Related Links:


Other Links:

Majority of Catalans want independence from Spain – poll, on Russia Today RT, Sept 23, 2014;

It’s Not the Carbon, It’s the Capitalism, on Dissident Voice, by Laura Flanders, September 22, 2014;

Only a Truce in Syria Can Stop ISIS, The Absurdity of US Policy in Syria, on Counterpunch, by PATRICK COCKBURN, Sept 22, 2014;
Patrick Cockburn’s new book: The Jihadis Return, ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, on OR Book;

Union of fear and loathing, on Lenin’s Tomb, by Richard Seymour, Sept 20, 2014;

Book: Against Austerity, How we Can Fix the Crisis they Made, by Richard Seymour, on Pluto Press;

… and this:

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