European Migrant Crisis
After 66 years of ratification of asylum, when the Geneva Convention on Refugees was prepared and implemented to officially recognize the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, the world stands in the midst of a global crisis questioning the principles on which this document prepared and ultimately applied on a large international scale for nations to follow and pursue. Fassin (2013) postulates that amidst the crisis which has hit a number of nations owing to the political conditions of various nations it is intriguing to explore the historical value and significance of how refugees came to be and the laws that were put in place to offer them protection from challenging conditions. Before proceeding with commenting on the present scenario of the global refugee crisis which has predominantly impacted European nations, it is imperative to establish the definition of refugee. According to Price, a refugee or asylum seeker is an individual that has been compelled or forced to flee their home country and seek refuge in another country due to a number of reasons.
These reasons may include fear of political and religious persecution, genocide, civil war or the occurrence of a catastrophic event which has made it impossible for the individual to continue to lead their life in their home nation.
According to a report presented by the BBC, the European refugee crisis was triggered in 2015 with the influx of migrants into European nations. The arrival of asylum seekers in the continent was primarily initiated by the conflict and civil war in Syria where the Islamic State is fighting against government powers to impose their fundamentalist ideology and overtake a number of cities within the country. Following the arrival of individuals and families from Syria, the second and third largest nationalities claiming refuge in European nations Afghanistanis and Iraqis primarily on the grounds of civil unrest, violence and terrorist activity in the nations. According to the statistics provided by the BBC, Germany has the highest asylum seeker claims across all countries of Europe, followed by a major portion of refugees entering Italy, UK and Greece. The poor socioeconomic conditions of refugees have captured the attention of global media and world leaders continue to debate about the possible solutions to manage this crisis, however, at present, it is continuing to escalate.
Ethics and Politics of Asylum
The key objectives of this assessment have been set out to examine the ethics and politics of asylum as presented in Auslander Raus to understand who has the right to live in ‘new’ Europe. Auslander Raus or Foreigners Out! Is a documentary directed by Christoph Schlingensief following the victory of extreme right parties and candidates during Austrian election – as a mark of protest and to show his disbelief over the election of such right-wing extremist candidates the filmmaker placed a concentration camp in the middle of the country’s capital to denounce the ideologies which led to their election in the first place. The paper critically examines asylum from an ethical and political standpoint in the light of this documentary by tracing the publics’ perception of asylum seekers in various parts of the globe and ultimately linking it to the perceptions and thought processes which are emerging in Europe against unauthorised migrants. The paper then addresses the concerns which are being raised by them and sheds light on the message of Auslander Raus and notes how it applies to the scenario and grave situation which is unfolding right in front of the world in various European nations that have been hit by the refugee crisis.
Asylum seekers in many scenarios are viewed as the ‘other’, the sense of exclusion that they experience within their own communities is marked by a great degree of animosity from others who may view their motives with a negative connotation and essentially view them as a burden on their own community, economy and country (Haslam and Pedersen, 2007). Studying the attitudes of Australian towards asylum seekers that come into the country, a research found that Australians had mixed reactions which swayed towards the negative side when forming opinions about refugees that come into the country. The authors note that the most common concerns held by the general public pertaining to their arrival were related to raising questions about how they would integrate into society and fears about their inability to cope with the cultural shock that they may undergo upon their arrival into the country (McKay, Thomas and Kneebone, 2012). Many Australians whose views were taken during the course of this research also expressed their concerns that the asylum seekers did not use the ‘right way’ to enter their country which points to the understanding that many residents believe that the motivations for entering into a specific country based on the grounds of asylum are not justified or somehow invalidates their right to be in the country.
The research of Louis et al. (2007) explored the fundamental reasons why citizens and the general public hold a negative view against asylum seekers – the primary problems that have emerged from the entry of millions of documented and undocumented workers are associated with how they will cope with and accept the cultural norms that are so different and varied from their own (55). The study also highlighted the portrayal of a negative attitude by citizens in situations when they were expected to interact with asylum seekers.
As noted previously, the number of applications for people seeking asylum in Europe rapidly increased in 2015 due to the state of the civil war in Syria which escalated tensions in the Middle East and saw the rapid rise of the Islamic State across the country and some parts of Iraq (Leithhold, 2015). While the governments of EU states were positive at first with the arrival of the migrants, it was soon observed that the crisis grew greater than expected. For instance, identifying amongst migrant applications that held credibility and that lacked any validation or genuine reason for seeking asylum emerged as a challenge. When it was realised that the huge migrant influx was close to becoming a major human rights and social issue, Leithhold (2015) notes that many countries began to develop and impose legislations to explore a way of more effectively dealing with the situation. However, at that point, the crisis had already reached a major breaking point with reported illegal activity at migrant camps, acts of sexual assaults reported by migrants in Cologne and even stabbings reported in parts of Europe that were ultimately traced back to migrant men that had posed as children to enter the EU states.
According to a report presented by BBC (2016), gangs of men were seen assaulting women and engaging in illegal activities including robbery during a New Year’s celebration in Cologne, Germany. Around 100 women reported becoming victims of these crimes and were subjected to groping and touching. As the media picked on this story, reports emerged that many of these men who were claimed to be of Syrian descent stated that it was the women’s provocative clothing and mannerisms which encouraged them to engage in such activities and that they were ‘asking for it’. Rasmussen et al. (2016) write that the fact that these attacks took place in Europe and the emotional and physical ordeal that the women had to go through because of them represent the level of integration that refugees and especially men have been able to depict.
Western society prides itself on promoting equal rights for women and an individual’s sense of dressing should never be viewed as an excuse for sexual assault and even rape because it defies the principles of consent. Therefore, the fact that these attacks took place in such a progressive society raised questions about the ethics of asylum and whether nations should be obliged or expected to offer refugees a place if their lack of ability to integrate within society causes issues and grave problems for the community that resides there.
However, the sensationalization of such news in the Western media and wrong implications of criminal activity that were pinned upon migrant men developed a mindset of fear and allegations where a narrative of viewing asylum seekers as evil or the ‘other’ ones emerged. It should be noted that these stories were not essentially true to the greatest extent, some were fabricated and some cases were never even reported. However, the situation escalated to the extent that right-wing organisations were able to capitalise on this negative public sentiment and actively denounce the entry of asylum seekers often going to lengths were acts of racism were recorded in camps that were housing such individuals. The media must play a responsible role in promoting the integration of migrants rather than singling them out and promoting the ‘us versus them’ rhetoric which is harmful to enhance their extent of cohesion within society. These initiatives can only lessen the tensions between the two sides and enable the start of productive dialogue to better understand the views of the other party and respectfully agree or disagree with them (Cabot, 2014).
European Migrant Crisis
This understanding and course of events lead to the fundamental point of who is ultimately allowed and has a right to live in this ‘new’ Europe? Given the political situation that has erupted in the countries of asylum seekers sparked by terrorist activity that has its roots in extremist ideologies – does Europe have a moral obligation to offer a place of safety and security to migrant families? Children, women and the elderly that have been driven out of their homes due to the ravages of war and those who have nothing to do with how the events have in their own countries. At this stage, the ethical dimension of asylum emerges and takes a new shape because it is ultimately a moral perspective which encourages humans to understand the value of human life and recognise its worth. Who decides whether the asylum seekers are granted a place to live in Europe, the narrative promoted in AuslanderRaus definitely offers a greater insight into this notion and explains how the anti-refugee ideology of rightist fundamentalists is no different from any other ideology that promotes extremist views (Volf, 2010).
As suggested in the research of Leithhold, EU states only began to pass legislations pertaining to asylum seekers and refugees once the crisis had already become grave, therefore, a proper policy or legislation was not documenting their entry when the civil war in Syria first broke out and when the unrest in the Middle East was at its peak. Hansen has stated that protecting the rights of refugees and ultimately those who wish to seek asylum in a country must be documented legally to ensure that the rights of all individuals are protected and that they are able to live freely in a new country without the threat of deportation or violence.
From the aforementioned perspective, the question of who gets to live in Europe can be answered by addressing the legal dimension of the topic – if the satirical nature of political asylum is to be compared with this statement as it has been projected in Auslander Raus it would be intriguing to note that the documentary simply shows the life of a few refugees housed in a Big Brother however, it does not show how they got to Austria, the land that offered them asylum. This is distinctly what can be understood from the premise of the documentary – the key issue with an individual’s refugee status emerges if their arrival in the country is undocumented or not supported by their legal right to enter the country. With respect to this point, Hansen raises the notion that German laws on asylum have been generous rather than practical. This drawback with the country’s policy has what led to the issues that communities face with the influx of migrants which may suggest that how refugees are selected to enter the country and on what basis they are granted permission is an issue rather than the asylum itself.
Asylum From A Legal and Political Perspective
In their research Hanewald et al. (2016) raised a critical point when discussing asylum from a legal and political perspective by stating that the implementation of any laws pertaining to the entry of migrants simply does not relate to their situation but is subjected to the mental and physical health of the refugee as well (166). In a healthcare system which may continue to become burdened if corrective measures are not taken on an immediate basis, it would be unfair for the citizens of a country to bear the additional burden of taking care of individuals who have been left with mental and physical health issues because of the situation in their country. Thus, the simple need to enter a country as a refugee does not offer a proper justification to act as a premise for them to be granted refugee status.
Caviedes (2016) states that with respect to the monitoring of refugees and individuals that are granted migrant status, there is a need to implement effective structures to ensure that their arrival is based on concrete reason on the basis of which they have been granted asylum. The ability to integrate and accept the cultural norms and values is a fundamental point in this case because it decides the extent to which the individual will prove to be a valuable and productive member of society rather than becoming a burden on tax payer’s hard earned money.
Migration governance as a comprehensive model and structure is a critical point of consideration in this case because it addresses and assesses individuals on the basis of the factors which determine their level of integration and also judges their potential to become long term residents. Caviedes recommends that measures such as requiring migrants to take language, culture and civics classes to better enlighten them and offer them tools to successfully integrate within society (559). Moreover, another factor that could better assist the selection of migrants once they apply for asylum is determining whether they already have family members residing in the country they wish to enter. Caviedes states that such cases are more preferable in comparison with situations where the individual has no roots tying the country to them because it offers them a platform to understand the society that they are about to enter (560).
Trauner (2016) notes that what the world is witnessing today in Europe with respect to the migrant and refugee crisis is reflective of policy failures on the part of the nation’s governments. Not only have these policies overburdened neighbouring states wherein migrant numbers are too high but they have also led to the building up of financial constraints on economies that are struggling to provide these new entrants with a living in the society and create jobs against the backdrop of a struggling global economy.
As depicted in Auslander Raus, the uncertainty of immigration and refugees only becomes more complex when there is no trace of where they came from and no trace of their background and history (Watts 165). The shady details of their past only create more distrust amongst the community where they are forced to grow more hateful and distrustful of what they view as aliens in their own community. However, a more documented approach wherein a method is devised to check the background of these individuals can also fulfil the moral and ethical obligations of giving them a new start at life while ensuring that the security and well-being of nation’s citizens are not compromised at the same time.
As the refugee crisis was triggered in Europe in 2015, EU member states have been left in utter disbelief with the problems that have followed the state of emergency. While the entry of immigrants into the countries of Europe have also incited a wave of extremist parties belonging to the right calling for their complete ban, from an ethical and moral standpoint this initiative and action are simply not justified. When homes continue to burn in Syria and the bodies of innocent children lie on the streets of Aleppo, the world cannot afford to watch in silence and let these innocent beings suffer because of something that is not their fault. Therefore, calling for a complete ban on refugees is out of the question. This raises the ultimate question of ‘who has the right to live in the ‘new’ Europe?’ and the answer to this as extensively discussed in this essay is that the right to live in Europe is possessed by its citizens and also refugees that have a documented status and the legal right to enter these states.
The legal right to enter these countries must be determined by the government and the concerned authorities that should weigh on various factors which will determine the extent to which candidates can successfully integrate within a society, for instance, assess their education, occupation and family background can offer a better insight into who they are and the potential that they have to become productive members of society. As shown in Auslander Raus, no one has the right to govern the lives of refugees and the general public cannot act as the ‘Big Brother’ in their attempt to scrutinise how they choose to lead their life and what they choose to do. Any measures to impose constant surveillance on migrant settlements and camps will only increase the sense of mistrust that they experience and will promote further hostility and animosity. For successful integration, it is imperative to accept the reality of asylum and accept that the current state of the world has led a scenario where this issue is something that cannot be ignored. Therefore, migration governance, asylum legislation and policy development are key areas to address when coping with the current scenario which is emerging across the globe.
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