Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm. “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.” (Bob Dylan, 1976)
These days, Europe is still being faced with a growing, maybe exponentially growing number of refugees.
Most of them come from the battlefields of Syria, but others try to hike along in their slipstream.
When compared to the numbers of refugees that other, less developed nations, are being confronted with, Europeans seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill.
Are Europeans being selfish, worried only about their own self-centered materialism or is there more at hand?
Is the spirit of lifeboat ethics out of the bottle again?
Some Europeans argue that they have only a limited amount of spare room left for refugees. Overstretching the shelter facilities would soon start to undermine the strength of the European states themselves, jeopardise their livability and ultimately lead to their collapse.
Others are even more radical in their judgements: as the reception capacity is limited and not everyone can be helped, it’s far better no to accommodate anyone at all.
To them, financial aid, combined with a closed border approach as to keep the (potential) refugees in their home country is the only sensible course to follow.
The states in the Arab peninsula seem to adhere to this version of the limited resources doctrine.
As a result, the word ‘refugee’ no longer corresponds to ‘refuge’, but is ever so often heard in combination with human trafficking, illegal immigrants, refugee camps and … death underway to the Promised Land (for many, the UK).
The Economist had (still has?) a different view on the topic: ‘Let them come and let them earn’. Migrants’ skill and networks are mostly complimentary to the locally available ones. Migrants do start new companies. Migrants tend to be less involved in crime.
So what is it going to be? One common European policy? Individual member states competing with one another trying to shove of the responsibility to another neighbour?
Will it be friendly & smart hospitality or ‘Fortress Europe’ yet again?
Maybe the two, most important lessons to be learnt from the current chaos are:
Being an idly watching bystander when a conflict near your borders breaks out in the long run never is a good strategy to follow.
A human life can’t be reduced to numbers or Euros alone.
Humanity, human rights involve so much more.
Compassion and human dignity can never be left out of the equation.
As the Jewish tradition learns us: rescue one life and you save all the generations that may follow.