Refugees Left Stranded As Europe Faces 'Crisis of Political Will'

Refugees wait at a registration point in Presevo, Serbia on 10 August 2015. (Photo: Stephen Ryan / IFRC via flickr)

Refugees Left Stranded As Europe Faces 'Crisis of Political Will'

'You aren’t going to solve these problems by closing borders.'—Adrian Edwards, UN refugee office

As Hungary on Friday said that it was constructing another razor wire fence, this time along its border with Croatia, a humanitarian aid organization is stressing that what the European continent is facing is not a refugee crisis but a crisis of political will.

The new barriers for the refugees come as Turkish state media said Friday that the body of a four-year-old Syrian girl's body washed up on a beach, just weeks after the body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed ashore, the image of which captured global headlines.

As Common Dreams reported Thursday:

Violently turned away from the Hungarian border, thousands of people fleeing war and poverty entered Croatia on Thursday, in pursuit of new routes to Western European countries where they are seeking refuge.

In scenes that have become emblematic of what many are calling "fortress Europe," police sought to block refugees from crossing the border.

"It's perverse to treat people fleeing war and persecution as a threat to border security, and any country that follows this example is heading down a dangerous road."
--Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International
"You aren't going to solve these problems by closing borders," stated Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Edwards also said Friday that "Time is running out" to resolve the crisis.

But Croatia on Friday closed nearly all its borders with Serbia.

"We cannot register and accommodate these people any longer," Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told a press conference on Friday. "The European Union must know that Croatia will not become a migrant 'hotspot.'"

Croatia began to bus refugees to the Hungarian border on Friday. Milanovic said, "Hungary has closed off its border with barbed wire; that's not a solution, but these people remaining in Croatia is not a solution either."

Hungary's foreign minister criticized the move, saying it encouraged refugees to break the law by "illegally" crossing its borders.

Human rights organization Amnesty International said that satellite images it obtained showed how Hungary's efforts to close its borders resulted in "in a dire situation for refugees and asylum-seekers left in limbo," with a bottleneck of trapped people.

"It's perverse to treat people fleeing war and persecution as a threat to border security, and any country that follows this example is heading down a dangerous road," said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International's Crisis Response Director.

"European countries that close borders are not finding solutions to the current crisis but creating a series of new problems at the expense of refugees and their international obligations," Hassan continued.

The current crisis European countries are facing, according to Oxfam, shouldn't be framed as a refugee crisis.

"Europe is facing a crisis of political will, not a refugee one--it clearly has the resources and capacity to host those arriving on its shores," said Andy Baker, heads of Oxfam's response to the Syria crisis. "The millions of people who have fled violence in Syria are the ones living an unprecedented crisis, struggling every day to find safety, food and shelter.

"The public support for refugees Europe has witnessed has undoubtedly been a turning point. It has finally pushed political leaders to take much needed action with regards to resettling refugees. This is welcome, a lifeline for thousands. But to really bring relief we need more safe and legal routes to third countries, a radically scaled up aid response, and concerted effort to stop the terrible violence in Syria that is causing this sprawling human catastrophe," Baker's statement continued.

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