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In 2016, more than 300 people have died in the Aegean sea alone, says Doctors Without Borders. (Image: @MSF_Sea/Twitter)

As Schengen Crumbles, EU Rallies Demand #SafePassage for Refugees

With global displacement crisis threatening Europe's open borders project, protesters call for legal and safe routes for those fleeing war

Deirdre Fulton

With refugees dying by the hundreds and stranded by the thousands, people across the EU and beyond rallied on Saturday for "safe passage."

"No more bracelets! No more confiscations! No more borders closed!" organizers said in a call-to-action online. Events big and small were planned for 115 cities in 28 countries.

"These people are running away from death," the statement continued. "We cannot allow them to die in front of our eyes! We cannot allow them to be held in inhumane camps when they came looking for freedom and safety! We cannot watch our Europe fall apart!"

More than 2,000 people reportedly took to the streets in Brussels, joined by representatives of humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders.

According to Agence France-Presse, some marchers "symbolically wore life jackets and blankets to highlight the perilous journeys of refugees, notably from the Syrian conflict, in rickety vessels across the Aegean Sea to make it to Europe."

The International Organization for Migration said Friday that migrant and refugee arrivals in Greece and Italy have exceeded 120,000 in 2016, having reached the 100,000 milestone earlier in the week—almost four months earlier than in 2015. The IOM, along with UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency, also reported in February that that an average of two children have drowned every day since September 2015 as their families try to cross the eastern Mediterranean, and the number of child deaths is growing.

Meanwhile, roughly 200 people rallied on Saturday outside the Austrian embassy in Athens, Greece.

Austria said last week it would only allow 80 people a day to claim asylum, and would limit the daily number of people crossing the country to 3,200. Greece, in turn, on Friday recalled its ambassador to Austria.

Furthermore, four Balkan countries on Friday announced their own daily caps, resulting in the stranding of more than 5,000 people at the Idomeni camp on Greece's border with Macedonia.

A senior EU official warned this week that Europe had 10 days to save the so-called Schengen area, a collapse that could easily amount to up to 1.4 trillion euros ($1.55 trillion) for the EU over the next decade, Deutsche Welle reported earlier this month. 

However, former European Commissioner Emma Bonino wrote at Inter Press Service on Friday: "Over and above the economic aspect—which is no small matter— one of the pillars of the European Union is being brought into question."

Participants tweeted photos and videos under the hashtag #SafePassage:

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