"Fortress Europe has cracked – finally"

People still arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos in rubber boats. This picture was taken in 2020.Image: www.imago-images.de / Eurokinissi

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Green Youth spokesman Timon Dzienus and Green Party politician Tareq Alaows are calling for a reform of asylum policy. In their guest article they write about the unequal treatment of refugees and recall terrible events from the past.

Tareq Alaows and Timon Dzienus

These are images that are not easily forgotten. And if you’ve experienced it yourself, probably never.

In 2015, millions of Syrians were forced to leave everything in their lives behind. Today those images and memories come back with a view to Ukraine. But they are not the same pictures. And the reactions to it are also fundamentally different. From this we must draw the right conclusions for more humanity.

The pictures of the past months show a great social and political solidarity. And there is also a new culture of welcome politically: Fortress Europe has cracked – finally.

“Suddenly, alternatives to the policy of isolation and deterrence are not only conceivable, but actually possible – and that’s good!”

We saw the change of course after the first week of the terrible Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, when the EU activated the mass influx policy for the first time. This possibility was created as early as 2001, which is intended to enable unbureaucratic and quick admission of many arriving fleeing people. Instead of a complicated and time-consuming asylum application, a simple registration is now sufficient.

Timon Dzienus is federal spokesman for the Green Youth.

Timon Dzienus is federal spokesman for the Green Youth.Image: Green Youth / Elias Keilhauer

The admission of the almost one million people works as a matter of course. Language courses are organised, school offers are provided and people are given the opportunity to participate in the labor market. Suddenly, alternatives to the policy of isolation and deterrence are not only conceivable, but actually possible – and that’s good! We need this solidarity in Berlin and Brussels. But it must become the rule and apply to everyone.

We still remember the terrible pictures from 2015. We remember the pictures of people on the Balkan route who had to walk through Europe under the most adverse circumstances. We remember the 71 people who died in the most horrible way in a truck in Austria. We remember the many people who were and still are forced to somehow cross the Mediterranean Sea in completely unsuitable inflatable boats.

Thousands died, nobody knows the exact number.

We saw the picture of Alan Kurdi who drowned in the sea off our borders at the age of two. He was one of many.

“On the far right, accusations of terrorism and crime were generalized and the shooting of people at the borders was even openly discussed.”

On the one hand, then as now, we saw a great wave of solidarity. About half of the population in Germany volunteered to help with the accommodation – through language courses or at the reception at the train stations.

But on the other hand, a right-wing mob of Pegida formed, AfD and self-proclaimed “Concerned Citizens” who cried out the downfall of the West. Threat and fear scenarios were fueled – while refugee shelters were set on fire almost daily.

On the right-hand edge, accusations of terrorism and crime were generalized and even openly discussed Shooting of people at the borders discussed. It didn’t take long for discussions about upper limits to dominate the political and media debate.

Tareq Alaows is a Green Party politician and is involved in, among other things "pier".

Tareq Alaows is a Green Party politician and is involved with “Seebrücke”, among other things.Image: Green

What should actually be taken for granted receded into the background: That you simply cannot measure absorption capacities and – even more importantly – that behind every number there is a person and a destiny.

Driven by this, the political reaction changed: While a tightening of the asylum law had not even been decided, the next instruments of patronage and suspicion were already being discussed. Europe kept shutting itself off.

Refugees were maltreated with sometimes brute force. Fences and walls were built and these were upgraded with barbed wire to pose a deadly threat to fleeing people. The EU sent so-called border guards from Frontex – not to protect those seeking protection, but to make it more difficult for them to flee or to beat them out of Europe again through illegal pushbacks.

that the politics The fact that today is so different from then shows a fundamental problem that needs to be clearly stated: racism.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock welcomes a Ukrainian child at Frankfurt Airport.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock welcomes a Ukrainian child at Frankfurt Airport.Image: dpa / Boris Roessler

There have also been reports in recent months that Black refugees from Ukraine have been turned away at the border. Some of those fleeing Ukraine who have different passports cannot rely on the “mass influx directive.” Skin color and nationality should not play a role, only the question of whether people are in need. In the course of World Refugee Day on Monday, this is more important than ever to emphasize.

There is one important lesson to be learned from the past few months. Because the decisive criterion as to whether and how well we help whom has always been a question of political will and not a question of supposed absorption capacities. In 2015 and 2016, about as many people came in 24 months as in the previous four months.

So if we want to help, we can!

Another lesson that will be extremely important for the global perspective in the coming years: there are already as many people fleeing the world as there are in Germany. The climate catastrophe, which is getting worse and faster, has already destroyed the livelihoods of countless people. In the coming decades, significantly more people will be forced to flee. Up to 140 million people could lose their homes by the climate catastrophe by 2050.

“We must adjust our willingness to help accordingly and renew our solidarity.”

We must adjust our willingness to help accordingly and renew our solidarity. The current change of course in dealing with people from Ukraine must be anchored in laws – for all refugees.

The racist tightening of asylum law must be withdrawn, access to the labor market simplified and language courses easily accessible to all refugees. For this it is essential to abolish the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act and to replace it with a new system that focuses on humanity instead of isolation and deterrence.

We can see that we are still a long way from this if we look a little further: Because we must not forget the people on the Greek islands who are still holding out on Lesvos or the people who have been stuck on the Belarusian border with Poland, a few kilometers from the Ukrainian border, since last year.

Thousands of people waited at the Polish border with Belarus to enter the EU.  Many died in the cold.

Thousands of people waited at the Polish border with Belarus to enter the EU. Many died in the cold. Image: www.imago-images.de / Jana Cavojska

We must not forget the people who are still drowning in the Mediterranean every day. In an age of crisis and in view of the challenges ahead, we must not be selective in our solidarity. Only together and in solidarity can we create real change.

It is undeniable that we have experienced a two-tier system in dealing with refugees over the past few years and months. It is good that the people from Ukraine were given the opportunity to be welcomed and integrated humanely. It is our humanitarian duty to treat everyone like this in the future.

Every single person deserves this with their individual dignity and their rights.

We owe it to them.

the authors

Timon Dzienus has been federal spokesman for the Green Youth since October 2021. He shares the office with Sarah-Lee Heinrich. The 26-year-old has been a member of the Green Youth since 2010. From 2014 to 2015 he was a member of the board and from 2017 to 2019 spokesman for the GJ Lower Saxony. He has been a member of the federal executive board since 2019.

Tareq Alaows is a Green politician. In 2021 he wanted to run for the federal elections, but withdrew his application due to right-wing hostilities and threats. The 33-year-old came to German hands from Syria in 2015. Alaows is involved with the non-governmental organization “Seebrücke” and the Berlin Refugee Council, among others.

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