More Europe, Less Egoism: European civil society to the rescue in the migrant crisis

340.000 recorded migrants crossed Europe’s border between January and June 2015: an unprecedented number for the EU. Conflicts and repression are raging in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea, Yemen with a level of intensity that current EU defence, development and humanitarian mechanisms simply cannot cope with.

Europe is left with simultaneous challenges: ensuring control of our borders, maintaining societal stability, honouring our values and living up to binding international commitments to help refugees.

In the short term, that means protecting the Schengen perimeter by fighting smugglers more aggressively and preventing terrorist infiltrations. This defensive boost could materialise in three ways:

[1] Common Standards for Border Management as legal chaos reigns today;

[2] Frontex, Europe’s border management Agency, should be allowed to initiate return missions and not just stick to operational assistance;

[3] A European System of Border Guards should be created, targeting sensitive spots where flows are not manageable by Member States.

Listing those technical points, one still feels overwhelmed by the amplitude of the catastrophe. Those refugees bring up the best of our instincts but also the worst. If those negative reactions prevail over our values of humanity and solidarity, then we have lost the battle to the radical groups who are responsible for this horror. Refugees should therefore be rescued, bearing in mind also that some will have to be returned. Europe faces dire political and economic challenges, in addition to investing in more forceful civil-military responses to the ongoing conflicts.

Leaving the big politics for later, we will now list civil society initiatives across the continent that demonstrate the values Europe is built upon. We used the internet and our own contacts all over the EU and found a lot of venues to help. They are obviously many more out there:

[Photo: Haeferl, Wikimedia]