May 30, 2024

EU elections: vote to protect refugees

The photo is from a vigil in Idlib to condemn the deportation of Syrians from Lebanon – North Press

Next week, people across Europe get to vote for a new European Parliament. It’s a unique chance to demand the EU does more to protect refugees in Europe and in Syria’s neighbouring countries, where over 5.5 million Syrians live after fleeing horrific conditions.

This is a critical election for Syrian refugees. The EU is striking multi-million Euro deals with Syria’s neighbouring countries to stop refugees reaching Europe. This is happening at the exact moment that our partners in those countries – like Lebanon and Türkiye – are reporting that hate crimes against Syrians have escalated in recent weeks.

Mutasim Khalaf, a Syrian and Palestinian journalist and refugee in Lebanon described the toll it’s taking on him: “Every day Lebanese television produces dozens of reports saying Syrians are stealing, they are outlaws, they commit crimes, they pollute public spaces. Now I scrutinise myself in the mirror before I go out the house, asking myself, “do I look Syrian? Am I walking or talking or appearing Syrian?””

Humanitarian assistance is highly needed, but people across Europe must demand that EU politicians do more to guarantee the welfare and rights of refugees in Lebanon and Türkiye, ensure the EU is not complicit in human rights violations, and call for expanded resettlement schemes to Europe. Voters must be clear: the EU cannot evade responsibility for protecting refugees by paying to stop people seeking asylum in Europe.

If you’re voting next week, make sure to ask what candidates will do to protect refugees’ rights in Europe and internationally. InfoMigrants has produced this helpful guide to where the parties stand on migration.

No part of Syria is safe for refugees to return to. Since 2022, at least 279 refugees who were forced back or chose to return were arbitrarily detained by regime forces, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Many face forced conscription into the regime’s army, which is notorious for war crimes. Meanwhile brave protesters continue to risk torture and death to demand a dignified life without the regime or armed factions.

Many of us can’t vote in the EU elections, but we can still have conversations with friends and candidates about what they should do. Here are some key points to make:

  • The EU should establish legal, safe and accessible resettlement pathways for refugees so they can seek safety without risking their lives.
  • The EU must reiterate that no part of Syria is safe and ensure that no EU funding contributes to forced returns to Syria by countries that seek to normalise relations with the regime
  • The EU must urge the Lebanese and Turkish governments to protect Syrian refugees’ rights and cease the persecution, raid, arrest, and refoulement of Syrian refugees
  • The EU should implement new humanitarian aid packages for host countries to support refugees
  • The EU-funded UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, must do more to protect refugees

Together, let’s combat anti-refugee policies and stand up to racist politicians who want to force survivors of torture, chemical attacks and other atrocities to return to their abusers. At next week’s election, we can show activists in Türkiye, Lebanon and Europe, who are risking their lives to speak out about their experiences and fears, that they’re not alone.