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Thursday, August 27, 2015

When Tourists & Refugees Meet

Strasbourg was going to be the topic for my next post.
Listening to the news of political developments all over Europe, the Refugee Crisis, which have to do with vacation make me sad, however, and rethink our trip: How lucky we are, how privileged to have the means and freedom to travel wherever and whenever we choose to. I never thought I'd write about this topic!
Refugees, asylum seekers, economic refugees flood the gates of Europe. They come from troubled or civil war ridden countries via Turkey, they risk their lives on tiny boats over the Aegean to little Greek islands, Kos and Lesbos, that are only a few miles away.Over 7,000 only last weekend.300,000 in total so far; that is more than in all of last year.When they are in Greek, they are in Europe and close to a safe, civilized and dignified life.
The problem is that these islands are popular tourist destinations. This is peak vacation time and Greece needs the income of tourists badly to survive. But these refugees who are often washed ashore want to survive too. Some hotels have put fences and guards to keep the paying tourist apart who are paying for their annual holiday and are entitled to their cocktail brought to them on the beach while a few meters away a refugee lathers up with some soap and shampoo he was given and swims out to wash it all off." I know it's not good for the sea, but I need to look after myself first."
Approx. 140,000 come over the border into Hungary who started to build a fence - like the Berlin Wall with barbed wire on top. Continuing into Serbia, they walk for days to reach trains that take them to Montenegro and again, they are in Europe with all its social benefits.Montenegro declared a state of emergency. No refugee wants to be registered there as the ultimate destination is Germany, Great Britain or Sweden. They walk along the motorway from Calais to the Channel Tunnel.Whole camps have sprung up where thousands wait to make it onto the train under the Channel somehow. Great Britain is blaming France for not doing enough.I saw them personally in smaller numbers when I was still doing my wine import routes that way. Heart-breaking, frightening, embarrassing: you drive by in your safe car and can't do anything..
200 thousand have come from Libya to Sicily or Lampedusa. so far 2,3000, however, have drowned because  of overloaded, inadequate vessels, lack of life jackets for people who can't swim. Human traffickers are involved on all routes charging thousands of dollars.In another tragedy,over 70 people suffocated on a truck in Austria trying to reach the West, probably moved my human traffickers.
German is considered the "Schlaraffenland", the land of milk and honey or Cockayne. (See Wikipedia: "Cockaigne or Cockayne /kɒˈkn/ is a land of plenty in medieval myth, an imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts and pleasures are always immediately at hand and where the harshness of medieval peasant life does not exist.")
We're expecting 800,000 refugees/immigrants this year alone. That is 40% of all humans fleeing one disaster, regime or other  in the whole world. About 104,000 came via the Serbian corridor this year already.The Minister of Economics, Sigmar Gabriel, assures us that Germany needs these people in our workforce as our numbers are dwindling. At the same time, the governor of Bavaria admits that his officials are tired and overworked and that people are not all registered and fingerprinted as they should. So they can slip through the net; not be registered and just disappear. Let's hope they are not all criminals.
All this in the light of the biggest refugee crisis Europe ever experienced since World War II - and this is not the end of it. It reminds me of my own family's plight, just a few individuals of 13 million people who were on the move in 1945-47. (See my short story below).
In the Balkan war crises we got 250,000 asylum seekers whereas France AND GB together got 50,000.Not only do the Germans pay for Greece's malaise but for the rest of the EU and now the rest of the world. The horrible truth and irony is that our weapon exports to the likes of  Saudi, Egypt, Yemen, etc.doubled! Tell me there is no direct connection, please!

Now let's resume our vacations. There are only few days left.American children already are back to school; the French will start again on1 September. We'll be home soon too.

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