Ukraine refugee crisis proves solidarity is possible

Greek Minister of Migration opens doors to "real refugees," while people coming from Middle East and Africa have been warehoused and criminalized for years.
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refugee crisis visible from the lifejacket graveyard, thousands of life jackets piled up on the Greek shores
Members of CPT walk through the life jacket graveyard on Lesvos in 2017.

In recent weeks a new refugee ‘crisis’ has come to Europe. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has displaced thousands of Ukrainians from their homes, many European countries have responded with solidarity, unreservedly granting displaced people the right to live and work. This is how it should be, regardless of the continent from which you are fleeing.

In early March, the Greek Minister of Migration defined those fleeing Ukraine as ‘real refugees,’ as opposed to those entering the Schengen area ‘illegally.’ We have seen in Lesvos for the past several years how this culture of disbelief—shared by the Greek state and the European Union member states—has destroyed lives. People coming from the Middle East and Africa have been warehoused on Greece’s islands for years while their applications are processed, usually until the court finds reason to doubt the truth of their asylum claim. Then Europe has its excuses either to deport them or to leave them stranded and without rights in Europe, as second-class citizens, forever living in hiding.

The war in Ukraine has proven that Europe can act with solidarity when the will is there.  But it has also reminded us of the racism inherent in its values and institutions. Pray for the safe passage of all, regardless of the continent of their birth.  

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