Terror. Bombs. Death. Daily life in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. For many years, political tension and religious conflicts have made living in these countries terribly dangerous and extremely difficult. Religious prosecution and war have forced people to either flee or to face death in their home countries. We tend to believe that these countries and such a daily life is very far away from our daily routine, but such a terrible and sad reality has also frightened Europe only 70 years ago too. As a consequence of the second world war, the European Union has been formed with, amongst others, the goal of promoting peace and freedom. The idea of the union is based on solidarity, community and human rights. But recent happenings show us that the dark history of our great grand parents has already been forgotten. And with it, the basic values of the Union.
Camp Moria used to be the largest refugee camp in Europe. It was located in Greece and created for a capacity of 3000 refugees, but at its peak, the camp provided home to 20.000 refugees. The living conditions in the camp were inhuman. There has not been enough water, toilets or showers. Tents were built out of trash while feces determined the smell of the camp. Doctors diagnosed the inhabitants with serious health issues that were caused by the living conditions. Following the corona pandemic and detected cases in the camp, the inhabitants had been put under quarantine in the overcrowded camp which lead to riots amongst the inhabitants but also amongst the citizens of the city. Unsurprisingly, hell on earth caught fire and completely burnt down, leaving 12.000 people homeless and scared of the future.
How can such a humanitarian crisis happen on the territory of the European Union? How could hundreds of politicians look away while people were rotting and suffering in the camp? Humanitarian organizations demanded evacuation, help and relocation for years. A political and interpersonal catastrophe, such as this one was, sadly, only a matter of time. Not only did the camp go up in fire that day, but EU values did too. How can a community that has been built on the idea of solidarity and human rights justify such a tragedy?
What remains is the question of how the European Union responded to this humanitarian tragedy. Can we find modesty and finally, real solidarity in the EU politics? NGOs and politicians kept appealing to EU Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen to finally act and evacuate the people once and for all. Ylva Johannsson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs used Twitter to respond and expressed her compassion in about three sentences. The German minister of foreign affairs, Heiko Maas, twittered that the fire in Camp Moria was a “humanitarian tragedy“, and that „Greece needs the help of the European Union as fast as possible“.
But to this date, all we can find are empty words. Some countries will allow the reception of refugees. Germany will allow 1500 specifically picked refugees to enter the country, the Netherlands are allowing 100 refugees to immigrate. The EU issued the creation of another supposedly temporary camp located closely to former hell. But while people are scared that this will only continue in a vicious circle leading to another inhuman living condition for years, the European Union seems to be getting away with this. Although, there has been a strong political debate about the disaster and public opinions, this great violation of human rights seems to be standing in the shadow of the corona pandemic. The European Union got away with a humanitarian tragedy.
We will continue to export weapons. We will continue to be blind on our right eye. We will continue to look away when refugees are in need. And we will continue to praise the EU’s solidarity and community values.