By Francesca Merlo
On Sunday 20 June, the UN and the rest of the world will celebrate its 20th World Refugee Day, 70 years after the 1951 Refugee Convention. Caritas Europa describes the day, marked by the United Nations on 18 June, as an opportunity to call on policy makers “to protect the right to asylum and the dignity of people on the move, and to facilitate human mobility instead of building walls”.
In a press release marking World Refugee Day, Caritas Europa expresses concern that “despite 82.4 million people now living forcibly displaced from their homes worldwide, asylum is under threat in Europe”. Caritas notes that Europe, now war-torn with millions of refugees and internally displaced people, is where these protections were created in the first place, for the survivors of the Great War. Despite this internal crisis, European countries are “increasingly closing access to their territories, including through illegal pushbacks and acute violence towards people seeking protection and a better life in Europe”.
In its press release, Caritas Europa refers to the Balkan Route as a case in point. The harsh reality seen on the borders between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina is people being humiliated by preventing them from crossing borders. Migrants are stripped naked and abandoned in the woods, they are beaten, tortured, robbed and attacked by dogs, says the statement.
However, says Caritas, the 'Balkan Route' is not an isolated case. Every day, people die before our eyes in relative indifference while trying to reach Europe. Caritas Europa notes that “in 2021, more than 800 people have already disappeared in the Mediterranean waters, and more than 13,000 have been intercepted and returned to Libya, where terrible suffering is known to await them”. Despite vast evidence on the dramatic situation for migrants in Libya, European countries continue to cooperate with the north African country to prevent people’s arrival in Europe.
Pope Francis has stressed that the globalization of indifference must cease, and European countries must respect the rights and dignity of people on the move. Concrete action must replace mere intentions in order to end pushbacks and violence and to respect and uphold the Refugee Convention as well as the values on which the EU is founded.'
Global solidarity with refugees and the countries hosting them is also deeply needed, continues the statement. Despite thier capacity, developed countries only host 15 per cent of the world’s refugees.
Concluding its statement, Caritas Europa urges European policy makers to rethink their indifference, and reiterates the need to protect, promote, welcome and integrate people on the move.