THE BLOG

EU Member States Must Work Together to Ease the Plight of Refugees

29/08/2015 00:45 BST | Updated 28/08/2016 10:59 BST

When police approached the abandoned lorry on Thursday morning, they saw blood leaking out of the back. We now know that 71 men, women and children suffocated inside.

The lorry was found in a lay-by, on a busy road leading into Vienna. It had been smuggling Syrian refugees. Three people have since been arrested in Hungary.

It has also been confirmed that more than 200 people have drowned off the coast of Libya, trying to make the crossing into Europe. This brings the total number of dead in the Mediterranean, this year alone, to more than 2,700. Well over 25,000 have now drowned trying to make the crossing since the year 2000.

To say that some EU member states are not doing enough in the face of this unfolding humanitarian disaster is an understatement. While Germany is expected to take in 800,000 asylum seekers this year, the UK is expected to take in around 30,000. Germany takes in many more asylum seekers each month than the UK does in a single year, and this discrepancy is reflected across much of the EU. In Greece, 50,000 refugees arrived in July alone, and the systems designed to handle them cannot cope.

The only system for dealing with the crisis that makes sense - a quota system - was rejected in June. This would have seen asylum seekers distributed between the 28 member states according to the wealth and population size of those countries. Angela Merkel rightly described it as the fairest method of resettling the migrants and refugees. And yet, the proposal was rejected outright by the UK, Denmark, Ireland and Spain, and major caveats were requested by other countries - for example, Poland only wants to accept Christians.

As a result, the demonstrably inadequate, grotesquely inhumane, situation persists.

In the opinion of Stefan Keßler, author of the book "Shipwreck: The Failure of European Refugee Policy", the only way to ease the refugee crisis is to open up legal corridors into Europe. Instead, the fortress mentality is pushing displaced peoples towards ever more desperate methods of entry, and putting them in the hands of ruthless traffickers, who care nothing for their well being.

In his own words: "The EU betrays its own values in its treatment of refugees. Instead of acting like a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, it behaves like an economic alliance [...] Countries are pushing refugees back and forth like toxic waste."

This abdication of responsibility must end. The situation is horrendous, it is deteriorating rapidly, and there is no limit to how bad it might get. In an increasingly unstable world, European countries must act in a coordinated way, so that robust, humane and flexible systems can be put in place to deal with the growing influx of migrants and refugees. I for one do not want to live in a country whose government has such callous disregard for our fellow human beings that it would maneuver in whatever way it can to take in as few of them as possible. On this issue, Germany leads the way, and it is time for other large, wealthy European countries to follow its example.