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Heartbreaking

Letters


It is heartbreaking to see images on our Bahrain television screens of children choking on tear gas as they try to enter Macedonia en route to the heart of Europe. 

Outside Calais a woman threatens to slit her wrists as police try to move her to alternative accommodation. 

The UN warns that Europe is on the brink of a “largely self-induced” humanitarian crisis. In fact the crisis is already a threat to the EU and is primarily a result of Syria’s civil war. 

Yet it is true that Europe’s failure to agree a response to the biggest movement of refugees on the continent since the Second World War has left frontline states to fashion responses of their own.

The result is chaos. In Calais misguided activities have turned a humane French effort to end the squalor of the “jungle” into a running battle with police. On Greece’s border with Macedonia 7,000 men, women and children are trapped, with at least, 1,000 more arriving each day.

They come by ferry and then bus, taxi or on foot from the Greek islands, where nearly 120,000 have arrived so far this year from Turkey, a 25-fold increase on the first two months of 2015. With warmer weather will come an even more dramatic surge unless something is done.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor wants the EU to agree on a mechanism to bring order to this chaos by a crucial EU-Turkey summit on Monday in Brussels. 

She is right to insist on urgency. Without a workable deal with Turkey, the conduit for the vast majority of Syrian refugees heading for Europe, every chokepoint for migrants from Greece to Austria will become an expanding refugee camp. 

Hardline anti-immigrant parties will thrive at the expense of centrists, and the free movement of people so cherished by European integrationists will recede into history.

The continent that welcomed eastern Europe with open arms a generation ago is slowly realising that it cannot extend the same welcome to the victims of turmoil in the Middle East. 

It can lead the effort to help them, but only if Merkel subordinates her instincts, formed in 1989, to the harsher realities of 2016.

T L

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