Column: E.U. remains divided in wake of human suffering

Laith Egbari, 7 years old from Aleppo, Syria, waits in line to board a train at Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. (Shawn Pogatchnik/AP)

Migrants have been leaving their home countries due to harsh and inhumane conditions in order to begin the journey to Europe for many years, but recently the numbers have escalated. The United States may believe there is a problem with immigrants here, but it is in no way comparable to the strife and horror occurring in parts of the Middle East. Most of the refugees are seeking peace from war and death-ridden Syria, but there are countless others escaping from Afghanistan, Eritrea as well as other African countries.

The Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, has been a massive spark sending asylum seekers to mainland Europe. The war has displaced 11 million Syrians, and as of March, 220,000 people have been killed as a result of conflicts. The war was originally focused on the Assad regime, but it now spans to conflicts amongst numerous other groups including jihadists, opposition supporters and the oppressive government.

What does this have to do with Europe? Europe is the closest safe haven for the innocents who painstakingly attempt to leave their countries. Now, search for a better life, and the 28 countries in the EU need to work together to evenly distribute the migrants across Europe.

According to the United Nations, asylum claims have risen from 8,000 in 2011 to over 150,000 leading in to 2015. These official numbers do not even include the masses of people scrambling to get on boats across the Mediterranean or trek through miles of land to get to safety.

The problem of human trafficking must also be addressed, because migrants who cannot get to Europe from official help are paying thousands of dollars to illegal human traffickers to take them to their destinations. Just over a week ago in Austria, on Aug. 27, a large truck was discovered with 71 bodies of Syrian migrants, including women and children. Multiple human traffickers had abandoned the truck and left the people to suffer and die in the back, even though they had finished most of the journey.

Germany has accepted the largest number of migrants and has been the most welcoming, an enormous gesture on its part. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff has stated that they plan to continue taking in refugees but need help from other European countries.

Last weekend, several trains packed with migrants left from Budapest to continue onto Vienna and Germany. A spectacular system was set up at the Hegyeshalom train station on the border between Austria and Hungary to welcome trains arriving from Vienna. Volunteers were waiting for migrants with diapers, food, and colossal amounts of water. These images were circulated through the media and world news; however, the scene is very different from this for migrants coming into the other side of Hungary.

Along the Hungary and Serbia border, camps were set up for refugees that resembled a concentration camp – with barbed wire, brutal police and a cold ground to sleep on. Hungarian police were beating people with batons and treating humans as if they were trash. It isn’t fair that half of the EU is welcoming refugees with open arms while others are turning up their nose in dismay. A unified bloc of countries should be able to agree on some policy that shares the distribution of migrants equally.

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s conservative National Front, made an insensitive and appalling comment when she stated the photograph of the Syrian toddler who had drowned was being used to make Europeans “feel guilty.” This photo was not being used as any tactic to “guilt” Europe; it was a photo of a dead child that spread throughout the world to show the brutality and heartlessness of the Syrian government and those hurting the innocent.

Thousands of children like this Syrian boy have been killed as a result of the civil war, and now that these issues are finally being globally addressed, change has to come. Instead of complaining about pressure being put on the European Union to act and accept refugees willingly, all of these first-world countries should recognize their privilege and help in any way they can.


Aly McTague is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyvia.mctague@uconn.edu.