AND SETH GALINSKY
On Sept. 4 hundreds of Syrian and other refugees broke past Hungarian police at the Budapest train station and began walking, determined to reach Austria and Germany. The march grew as it went, blocking traffic on the highway. As a result, tens of thousands of triumphant toilers made the border crossing, winning aid and solidarity from working people and others across Europe.
“Shame on you!” and “We are human!” hundreds had chanted in the days before the breakout.
The determination of these men and women, who are seeking to escape the effects of the civil war in Syria and other conflicts in the Mideast and Africa, has put growing pressure on governments in Europe and North America to grant them asylum.
Washington in particular has declined to accept significant numbers, claiming U.S. imperialism’s need to screen for potential terrorists makes it virtually impossible to do so. The U.S. government has accepted only 1,042 Syrian refugees in the last year.
At the same time the government of Hungary announced it was speeding the construction of a fence to keep immigrants out and the Danish government took out ads in Lebanese papers warning Syrians not to come to Denmark.
Twelve million Syrians — more than half of the population — have been forced from their homes by the civil war. Four million have fled the country, with most stuck in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey under unbearable conditions. Millions more are fleeing conflicts in Eritrea, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa in response to the deepening impact of the capitalist economic crisis there.
At least 320,000 refugees have made the journey to Europe this year; 2,600 have died trying. The image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey and 71 bodies found in a truck in Austria have become symbols of the horrors of these voyages.
Determination of Syrian immigrantsThe latest crisis came to a head when the Hungarian government barred many Syrian refugees in Budapest from continuing on to Austria and Germany, leaving thousands stranded at the train station. A makeshift camp, controlled by the immigrants, went up in the area around the station. They held their ground against attempts by cops to clear them out.
Images of their trek to the border spread around the world, including of working people in Budapest offering food and water along the road. The German and Austrian governments finally agreed to allow them to enter and apply for asylum, waiving European Union rules that they register in countries where they first arrived. The Hungarian government then provided 100 buses to carry some 4,500 people to the border. German officials emphasized this was a “one-time response.”
By Sept. 7, when the Austrian government said it would put back in place tighter border controls, 12,000 had crossed.
A similar situation has developed on the Greek island of Lesbos, where 17,000 refugees are demanding that they be allowed to head farther north to countries where they hope to be able to settle.
While at times crying crocodile tears for the refugees’ plight, the governments of other imperialist nations are doing as little as possible to aid them.
“The whole country has been deeply moved by the heart-breaking images we have seen over the past few days,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament Sept. 7. “Britain should fulfill its moral responsibility to help.”
His proposal? To resettle just 20,000 Syrians over the next five years. And under Cameron’s plan, the U.K. would only accept applicants from the Middle East, not those who have already made their way to Europe.
Under the rising pressure, the U.S. State Department recently said it would raise its quota to 8,000 for 2016.
The German, Austrian and Swedish governments have taken in the largest number of refugees but have complained that other EU governments need to share the “burden” by taking mandatory quotas.
“The problem is not European, it’s German,” complained Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban Sept 3. “Nobody would like to stay in Hungary, neither Slovakia, Poland or Estonia.” He added, “We do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country.”
Orban has charged that Germany’s provision of financial assistance to refugees has encouraged them to come to Europe.
On Sept. 7 the German government announced it was reducing cash assistance to asylum-seekers. The Washington Post noted that even before the cutback, a family of three Syrian refugees in Berlin was receiving just $260 a month for food and clothing.
‘Refugees welcome’In stark contrast to the callous contempt shown by the imperialist rulers, there has been an outpouring of solidarity from working people and others across the continent.
In Dresden, Germany, 5,000 rallied Aug. 30 in support of the immigrants. The following day 20,000 marched in Vienna with banners reading, “Human rights are borderless” and “No person is illegal.” In Budapest, some 5,000 demonstrated Sept. 2. A march in Stockholm Sept. 6 drew 15,000.
Soccer fans displaying banners saying “Refugees welcome” have become a regular feature in matches in the German premier league. Refugees are invited to matches and clubs organize collections of clothes and donations. Germany’s top team, Bayern Munich, has announced it will raise $1.1 million in aid and set up a training camp for those arriving in the city.
Fans in England and Ireland have followed the example and “Refugees Welcome” banners now appear at soccer matches and arenas there, too.
In Iceland, thousands of people have offered to take in those in need of shelter, as have hundreds in Berlin.
On Sept. 6 a caravan of 100 cars drove from Vienna over the Hungarian border to deliver donations of food and other basic necessities and offered rides to immigrants on the way back.
UK rally protests govít attacks on immigrants
Open the borders to refugees now!
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