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To prevent senseless suffering and deaths, EU must be prepared to issue ‘Sanctuary Europe Visas’

Dora Kostakopoulou, Professor of European Union Law, European Integration and Public Policy at the University of Warwick reacts to the current migration crisis, she says,

"Fata ducunt, non trahunt, ‘Destiny directs, it does not drag’, the Romans believed. Notwithstanding all the qualifications that often accompany such dicta, it is, nevertheless, true that while Europe used to be a land quite uncongenial to co-living and the generator of refugees, the success of the European unification project over the last sixty years has made, and makes, it a receptacle of people fleeing wars and conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia and elsewhere. And while ‘people’ were leaving Germany and Austria in order to escape the dehumanisation of fascism a few decades ago, suddenly ‘people’ are desperate to arrive there; they wait for days in Budapest’s Keleti station for trains to take them there and are even prepared to walk one hundred miles in order to apply for refugee status in them. In their eyes, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is their guardian and protector and Germany is a country with a collective soul, that is, with a social consciousness. During their tiring and risky journeys to safety, Syrian refugees have met humans without soul and leaders without soul, but also people, societies and leaders with soul, such as Mrs Merkel.

This duality will dominate the discussions in Brussels this week. European leaders are free to choose to accept the reality of human vulnerability or resist it. They are free to invoke ‘security concerns’, intergovernmental unease about the Commission’s relocation proposals and mandatory quotas and ‘cultural anxieties’ or to affirm that the destiny of the project of ‘creating an ever closer Union among the peoples of Europe’ is to create an open socio-political space conducive to human living. There exists an undeniable particularity about the situation in the European Union which requires that a humanist approach is given priority and that respect for human beings and their life worlds is placed at the core of institutional designs and policy efforts.

Although dismantling smuggling operations has been a central issue on the agenda of Commissioner Avramopoulos, if the European Union wishes to project itself as a philanthropic community and to prevent senseless suffering and deaths, it must be prepared to issue ‘Sanctuary Europe Visas’. As my students, Ms Ilaria Iovieno and Ms Giulia Fantozzi have argued in their dissertations, ‘a “refugee visa” has the potential to reduce clandestine travelling and entry and could be requested from embassies of Member States, in line with the Australian 1958 precedent and 2003 EU Protected Entry Procedure (PEP). They would permit refugees to work, study, access health care and to enjoy security of residence and family reunification’.

Destiny directs and, in its complex orchestrations, leaves room for reflection, freedom to choose among options and for decision-making. Europe’s leaders can decide to ‘do nothing’, ‘do something’ or to affirm ‘humanness’ all the way."

Alex Buxton
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