We Need To Fight The Xenophobia Spreading Through Europe

Migrants wait with life vests while they are camping after being cheated by smugglers on January 29, 2016 in Kucukkuyu distri
Migrants wait with life vests while they are camping after being cheated by smugglers on January 29, 2016 in Kucukkuyu district in Canakkale, as they try to reach the Greek island of Lesbos. The migrants reported that the smuglers who proposed their services to help them cross the sea to the Greek island of Lesbos lied about the boat's size. They refused to get on the small sized boat they discovered on the boarding spot chosen by smuglers. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday January 25, British tabloid The Sun published the following headline: "Anarchy near the UK: British activists behind Calais ferry stampede." A day earlier, migrants in the refugee camp near Calais known as "The Jungle," along with several social groups, staged a protest demanding the respect for their right to freedom of movement and decent living conditions.

Three days later, British Prime Minister David Cameron brokered new restrictions on immigration with Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission. Cameron even probed Juncker on the possibility of denying certain kinds of public assistance for immigrants. I don't know what "anarchy" The Sun was talking about, but it does seem increasingly clear that the exponential increase of refugees and migrants is tearing at the seams of the European Union, which is neither as united nor as supportive as it has tried to appear.

A few weeks ago, Dimitris Avramopulos, the European Commissioner for Immigration, said that this is a very difficult time for Europe. "The European dream has vanished," he said. Beyond the fading of a dream, Europe is approaching a surveillance and security nightmare. Decisions are being made regarding who should be and who shouldn't be protected. Such exclusion from protection defines political xenophobia.

In the face of such a humanitarian tragedy, European institutions have not provided humanitarian solutions to grant safe and legal access to refugees.

It is not surprising then that the Danish Parliament, under pressure from the far-right, pro-government Popular Party (PPD), and with support from conservatives, liberals and social democrats, recently approved a law that seizes assets from refugees.

Here in Spain, we've heard whispers of this particularly twisted legal measure, which entails the confiscation of valuables and money to cover the asylum seekers' expenses in the country. Similar practices have already been applied in Switzerland and in several German federal states such as Bavaria and Baden-Wurtemberg.

But the Danish government is also implementing other measures, including making cuts to benefits and grants so as to avoid "compromising" the sustainability of the Danish welfare and system. It also includes more hurdles for refugees to access family reunification programs. Refugees could be forced to wait as long as three years before beginning the process, a requirement that could well violate the European Convention on Human Rights as and other child protection treaties signed by Denmark and other European countries.

But Denmark is not alone. Nor was Hungary when it made the news last autumn. This week, Europol estimated that around 10,000 minors were separated from their families last year and are now missing.

It's strange that this figure --which may or may not be accurate-- hasn't been reported by humanitarian organizations working in the field. It's even more surprising that in the face of such a humanitarian tragedy, European institutions have not provided humanitarian solutions to grant safe and legal access to refugees.

Creating a safe and legal corridor to Europe would regulate the influx of refugees, end the mafia's lucrative business, prevent the forcible separation of many families, and, above all, avoid thousands of unnecessary deaths. For now, these corpses testify to the institutional racism entrenched in European migratory policies.

Asylum seekers from other countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea are treated as second-class refugees.

European institutions and member states, meanwhile, continue going down their obstinate path; they strengthen Fortress Europe by turning countries such as Greece, Macedonia and Serbia into checkpoint-states that control migratory flows to central Europe.

In their effort to reduce the number of refugees, every conceivable measure seems to be fair game. Refugees are hosted in closed detention centers, and border controls are tightened. They even classify refugees and take the liberty of stripping some of them of their rights.

In practice, this entails restricting the refugee quota almost solely to Syrians. Syrian refugees are then held in detention centers, and wait to be relocated to other European countries. Asylum seekers from other countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea are treated as second-class refugees.

The Greek government is being encouraged to return these refugees to their countries of origin via a classic carrot and stick approach: as long as Greece fulfills the role of checkpoint-state or border police for the rest of Europe, European institutions will ease Greece's deficit ceiling for the Stability and Growth Pact. If Greece fails to pull through, then it may be looking at expulsion from the Schengen area in three months.

It wasn't only Hungary. It's not only Denmark. And it's not Greece, or many other examples that would fit this list. There is a spiral of crackdowns on freedom and a security hype driven by barbarism and fear currently haunting Europe. Freedom of movement is restricted and basic rights are crushed. Member states are blackmailed and forced to act as border police for the rest of Europe.

This is a fatal trend that forces us to rethink the European project. We need to find a plan B to combat the xenophobia that is gaining ground in Europe like an Orwellian nightmare. We need to find solidarity and unity, on the streets and across official institutions, in political and social organizations. Only then will we be able to build a project from the ashes of the European dream that would allow us to turn solidarity into equal rights.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Spain. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.