THE BLOG

Our Home Is Your Home: The Refugee Crisis in the Face of Government Failure

16/09/2015 15:41 BST | Updated 15/09/2016 10:12 BST

In the wake of escalating media coverage of people landing on Europe's shores, seeking refuge but instead being discarded and spat on like criminals by the authorities, I decided to go to one of the main receiving islands: Kos.

I am a 29 year old Scot and am flying out on the 16 September. My plan is simple: to provide people arriving there with basic necessities and to make their first steps into Europe a little easier.

Currently, men, women and children seeking refuge have little-to-no access to food, water or shelter there. I have started a fundraising campaign to buy basics, such as food, sleeping bags and rain jackets. I will be working alongside local volunteers and the refugees to see what is needed. The government cannot provide adequate support and there are no aid organisations doing this either. If we do not step up, we risk losing a generation of people at our shores, and I am not willing to let that happen quietly.

Amidst the largest refugee crisis since WW2, Europe is doing nothing to bring down its Fortress walls. Furthermore, as the numbers of people on the move fleeing peril and persecution escalate, governments and mass media are fuelling the narrative of undocumented migrants being both subhuman and a threat.

The last few weeks have seen fast developments of the crisis, with an array of varying reactions. Refugees have been diverted by the train-load in Hungary, attacked by riot police in Macedonia and left destitute due to inaction in many receiving countries.

There has been some support shown by others, although short-lived. Germany, for example, suspended the Dublin Convention and decided to accept all Syrian asylum claims - only to do a swift about turn and join with Hungary, Austria and Slovakia to reintroduce border checks in defiance of the Schengen Treaty.

The EU is clearly drastically failing some of the world's most vulnerable people, and it is highly likely to continue to fail them - although perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

The seeds of this failure were sown in the aftermath of 9/11, when Western governments began to reconceptualise the undocumented migrant as a threat, categorising them alongside terrorists and drug smugglers - a dehumanisation exacerbated by the use of language such as 'swarms' and 'illegal immigrant'.

Into this political environment came the European Union's Security Research Program (ESRP). Established in 2007 with the aim of identifying 'bodily threats', it was implicit in the creation of a highly profitable border security industry with an estimated value of $141.6bn. Thus, all undocumented people on the move became the threat, and big business the profiteers.

So where does that leave us when approaching the influx and needs of refugees?

Thankfully, people across Europe seem to be stepping up to the game.

From Greece to Macedonia, locals have been providing food and water to refugees as they move through their various countries. Donations have been shipped from all over Western Europe to refugees in Eastern nations. Last week, scores of Germans and Austrians flouted smuggling laws by driving refugees out of Hungary in their cars.

In the UK, 50,000 people marched under the banner 'Refugees Welcome', solidarity groups are springing up all over and an almost constant convey of people driving to Calais to provide support is in place.

In the face of such disregard by governments, the reactions from the people are both loud and beautiful. However, we must recognise that this refugee influx is not a phase that will blow over.

It will in fact most likely increase. For a start, instabilities and conflicts do not seem to be subsiding in the Middle East and North East Africa. More importantly, the already changing climate will force many to move; as it is likely to create water and food shortages, thus potential resource conflicts, increasing urbanisation, and growing societal pressures and political instabilities.

In the face of the border security mantra that has become a belief system to many country leaders, it is unlikely in the coming years that states will overhaul their attitudes towards those seeking refuge.

Solidarity from residents to refugees cannot be a short-lived lust affair. We must take advantage of this current momentum to organise in the long-term. Our efforts must become better structured, more mature and more deeply ingrained into our communities.

Merkel might have accepted more refugees and waived the right to send them to initial receiving countries, but the fact that this was sharply followed by suspending the Schengen Treaty speaks volumes. Fortress Europe will remain, along with the abysmal treatment of refugees.

So lets us as the people of Europe make supporting those who are asking for refuge a priority. Lets us support them with dignity and grace, and actively welcome them into our countries and lives.