Fortress Europe: In Conversation with Dutch activists on the current Migrant influx into Europe
Category : Archived News
Seven Dutch activists, connected to the Hague-based foundation “Mensen Met Een Missie”, visited us at PACSA earlier this year. As part of their visit we hosted a conversation, attended by 28 people, on the ‘European refugee crisis.’ Professor Georg Frerks, professor of Conflict Studies at Utrecht University, who gave the introductory remarks, noted that the hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Europe are only a fraction of the number of people displaced by war and conflict in the world. After the Second World War, Europe had to deal with much larger numbers of displaced people and it is in fact possible to provide refuge to all those seeking it in Europe.Various issues emerged in the conversation. Amongst these is the fact that the response by most European governments has been to erect obstacles to keep the refugees out or to make life as difficult as possible for the refugees to deter more people from attempting to enter Europe. An example of such deterrence is the European Right-wing’s use of scare tactics through the abuse of social services. Additionally, within the continent, the attitudes towards the entering refugees have shifted from an emphasis on ‘multi-culturalism’ to one of assimilation.
The conversation also surfaced just how inadequate notions of national sovereignty, borders, rights and citizenships are in dealing with the reality of millions of people displaced and seeking refuge in countries where they were not born in. These notions were at one time considered progressive but in its current use can be considered to be exclusivist and could act as a smokescreen to build barriers between ‘citizens’ and ‘refugees’. This raises the question whether the social and political structures speak to our current situation and the need to re-imagine new understandings of belonging and connections that respect the dignity of each person.
The need to support the solidarity efforts of the many people in Europe who are in fact welcoming refugees was also noted. These efforts must be replicate in other aspects of our global political life.