Debate

Europe must act and take responsibility

Europe's largest humanitarian catastrophe since World War II is currently under way in Europe. The wars in Syria have claimed hundreds of thousands of victims, while millions are on the run, exploited and endangered by smugglers. This is an unbelievably great tragedy where many governments should feel responsible, writes Mukhtar Bulaale who is a political scientist and works with unaccompanied refugee children.

Today we see pictures of dead children being washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean, at the same time as countries are building barriers and putting up fences to shut out those who are fleeing for their lives. Seconded-out police officers who whip desperate refugees (in France, Greece and Macedonia, for example) evoke unpleasant memories of 1900th-century Europe's history. Human distress is met with further human rights violations, including the right that the UN Declaration gives refugees to "seek and enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries".

This is nothing but a shame for our time.

Immoral to close your eyes

It is easier to look away and be silent, than to take a stand and take responsibility when a disaster seems too great, too incomprehensible, and too unmanageable. But turning a blind eye to the image of 3-year-old Alan, who floated ashore lifeless on the Turkish coast after never experiencing peace in his short life, is not compatible with a moral attitude. Not being able to do everything does not mean that you are free to do nothing.

I am proud that Sweden has been able to help so many people on the run, and that we continue to do so. But the efforts do not end with the reception itself.

In my job with unaccompanied refugee children, I see many children who have been through traumatic events, but who still want to build and start life here in Sweden. Most people want to learn Swedish as soon as possible.

It is of great importance that everyone who wants to stay here can also be quickly integrated, no matter how many they are. It is about people being able to go from being victims to being actors, from being recipients of help to making productive contributions to their new society. At present, refugee reception is certainly a challenge, but properly managed, it can be an asset for our country.

All EU countries must take responsibility

But refugee reception cannot continue to be a matter for a few countries, such as Sweden and Germany. It should be obvious for more of Europe's countries to help. We will witness greater tragedies if we do not act now and open new, safer roads to Europe. The proportion of quota refugees to the individual EU countries should be increased, and these countries should be offered at least temporary residence permits (Sweden offers permanent residence permits for Syrian refugees).

More people must be able to come to Europe to seek refuge, and this can only happen if other EU countries increase their reception. It cannot be one thing for Sweden and Germany alone to shoulder the moral and practical responsibility for the worst refugee catastrophe of the post-war period. Justice requires a fair distribution of both duties and rights.

Mukhtar Bulaale

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