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Monday, 20 April 2015

Scratching the surface of civilization off some Dutch citizens: deaths of over 1100 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea applauded and hailed by a (small) number of Dutch people

For me – and probably for many other people – the last week was one of both grief, discomfort, disbelief and shame.

Grief that once again disaster struck upon a few of the numerous small boats in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, filled to the brim with hundreds and hundreds of economic and political refugees. The mindboggling death toll was well over 1,100 casualties, in little over a week.

My growing discomfort is caused by the fact that the European Union could offer a few solutions to diminish this gruesome number of casualties, but is yet scared away by the consequences:
  • When the European Union would more actively pursue the gangs, involved in this kind of human traficking, up to their homes bases and departure points on Libyan and other North-African shores, it would be able to fight the problem at the root cause and stop the massive influx of new refugees. 
    However, such initiatives could easily lead to a more intense military involvement of the European Union, in an area that is already very unstable. An area which could very well form the next home base of extremely dangerous groups, like IS and others.

    Besides that, it would leave the strong impression that the European Union is mainly busy with making sure that the problems remain in the Middle-East and Northern Africa, instead of structurally solving these problems.
  • When a much larger number of navy ships from the EU member states would substantially increase the number and density of the search-and-rescue patrols upon the Mediterranean waters, they would be able to step in earlier and probably save many refugees’ lives.
    The obvious drawbacks of this choice would be that this a. would increase the number of refugees reaching European shores through the ships of their navy saviors and b. could form an extra motivation to refugees and the criminal gangs around them ‘to give it a shot’, as the chances for survival would probably dramatically increase.

  • And probably the hardest and therefore least popular solution is that the European Union really tries to make a difference in North Africa and the Middle East, by trying to spur economic growth in that region and diminish the political and religious tensions overthere, through the offering of political solutions, financial aid and possibilities to start negotiations between alienated parties.
    The war in Syria has escalated so much and has become so complicated over the last four years, that whatever the European Unions wants to do there, it will always be the wrong choice.

    For North-Africa, the situation is little better. Libya is a mess from a political and military point of view. The political stability in Egypt is hardly better and Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are also not strongholds of stability and economic wellbeing. The littlest spark could fire up massive tribal, ethnical and religious conflicts in that explosive region.

And so the European Union still feels forced to sit on its hands and mainly pay lip-service to its desire to diminish the vast numbers of refugees on their wobbly boats.

In spite of the recent initiative of the Polish president of the European Council Donald Tusk, in which he asks for the organization of a European assembly regarding this topic, and the cries for help from Italian officials, I don’t expect much to happen soon.  

“We really want to help, but now we can’t do much about the refugee problem, as there are simply too many complications emerging from every decision that we make…” will be the general tendency of such assemblies, like the one organized tonight between the European Ministers of foreign affairs. And so we just wait for the next gruesome incident to happen… and the one after that one… and the next one after those two.

There is one thing, however, that is bothering me even more than the reluctancy of the European Union to search for really decisive solutions: a (hopefully) small, but probably growing group of angered, resentful and misanthropical respondents to news messages in The Netherlands, was actually applauding and hailing the accidents, which took place last week.

These respondents used words like:  “That is another 700 welfare payments less, times 50 years. K-ching!” or “I regret the 28 survivors. These people will become new parasites on our society, who will receive anti-trauma therapy at our expenses. For me this is a disappointing end to a very uplifting article”.

Of course, the pitying and grieving respondents – all people who were very upset about these enormous accidents – massively outnumbered the people full of ‘schadenfreude’, anger and resentment against these refugees.

Nevertheless, these incidents and the reaction to it proved that even in a country with a centuries-old tradition of hospitality and benevolence for people in need, the shining surface of civilization is only microns in thickness. 

Only seven years of economic crisis and 15-odd years of political agitation from various extremist political parties in The Netherlands were enough to scratch this shiny surface and expose the stinking layer of hardly disguised racism, hatred and resentment underneath.

Seven years alone were enough to dramatically change the concept behind the word “refugee”:  from a person in need, who made a desperate attempt to rescue his life and tries to search for a better future for himself and his family, into a parasite with whom many Dutch people don’t want to have any encounter at all and  who needs to be removed from Dutch and even European soil.

Although virtually none of the refugees poses any threat to the life, wellbeing and economic prosperity of any Dutch person whatsoever, the hatred and resentment among these respondents against the refugees is much stronger than the compassion and understanding for their desperate situation.

This is a development of which many politicians in The Netherlands – both on the right and the left wing – should be very, very ashamed and discomforted.

As it were those same politicians, who have had all the exposure on television to utter their increasingly radical opinions about economic and political refugees looking for a better future, accessible as they were for the political succes of such radicalizing opinions. Airplay, that worked to reinforce the already resident feelings of hatred and resentment against refugees among some Dutch citizens.

And it were almost the same politicians, who left the South-European refugee problem as a simmering stew of discontent, because they have been scared away from finding real and viable solutions for this mounting problem, until it is almost too late. 

Suddenly, it becomes so much easier to see how things could go wrong in the years before the Second World War: not only in Germany, but also in countries like The Netherlands.  The radical people in those ages could not become so successful because of their radicalism, but as a result of the fact that a growing part of the population silently or openly agreed with them.

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