Another two boats sank in the Mediterranean on Friday, with more than 40 people reported drowned as they tried to reach Greek islands and the supposed safety of Europe.
This week the world's richest bankers, politicians and businessmen met in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos for their annual gathering, their words dutifully reported by a bedazzled media. It became the occasion for politicians to spell out their unease about the refugee crisis. It was not a pretty sight.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared that Europe was in danger of becoming "totally destabilised" if refugees from the Middle East and South Asia were allowed into Europe.
According to Valls, the concept of Europe was now in grave danger. He echoed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who also used the super-rich jamboree at Davos as the setting to announce that Europe's Schengen Agreement, which allows free movement across most of the continent's national borders, would be dead in two months if something was not done to stem the influx of refugees.
Meanwhile, a new law in Denmark will continue its draconian policy towards refugees, driven by the strength of the far right, by confiscating property, including jewellery of refugees. In a touching move, wedding rings will now be exempted lest the parallels with the treatment of Jews in 1930s Nazi Germany seem too uncomfortably close.
Post-war Europe drew up laws and agreements in the hope of preventing such savagery and cost to human life happening again. Politicians now appear willing to tear them up to deny refuge to some of the most desperate people in the world.
We see attacks on people from the Middle East and North Africa, on Muslims in general, and increasingly on refugees themselves. These attacks are all too often driven by the far-right, but are echoed by mainstream politicians like Valls and Rutte, and find respectability as they are taken up by the vast majority of the media, including the liberal press.
Refugees are, according to these views, a major problem in Europe. In reality, it is the other way round. It is European countries that have waged successive wars across the Middle East and South Asia; it is European countries that have provided arms to the region and whose aid often comes in the form of military infrastructure; it is European countries that have developed a culture of racism which means that non-Europeans who come to live and work in Europe are treated as second-class citizens, denied decent jobs, housing and opportunities.
It is from Europe too that colonialism spread to large parts of Asia and Africa from the 19th century onwards, and whose legacy still lingers as the former colonial powers still intervene militarily and economically in those countries.
There are a number of inescapable facts about the present refugee crisis. One is that it derives from wars, wars which for the most part have involved countries such as Britain and France. Refugees are coming from Syria where a number of powers are involved, and from Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all of which have been bombed, invaded or occupied by the Western powers in the past 15 years. The refugee crisis is the product of these wars.
Everyone should have the right to escape wars and those in the richest countries have an obligation to help them. But such obligations are being torn up by governments under the auspices of an EU which preaches freedom of movement but which is discriminating on racial and national grounds.
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