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Refugee crisis calls for compassion and pragmatism

By Mal Fletcher - posted Wednesday, 23 September 2015


EU countries have taken in almost 250,000 refugees in the three months to June.

Some EU estimates put the figure at 500,000 for the year as a whole, with people coming mainly from Syria and Iraq. On Wednesday, EU leaders will hold an extraordinary meeting in Brussels to decide what must be done to stem the flow.

Two weeks ago, I was privileged to host an event in Berlin, just as this crisis was hitting its peak.

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The timing and location were interesting. This pan-European roundtable focused on how community leaders in volunteer organisations such as community groups and NGOs might better partner with governments to solve social problems.

The first part of the summit featured a tour of the Reichstag building, home of the Bundestag, the German Parliament. Our host was Mr Marco Wanderwitz, a frontbench MP in Angela Merkel's governing alliance.

He addressed the group on a day that saw German leaders holding urgent talks on the unfolding migration crisis.

Mr Wanderwitz, his party's spokesperson on culture and media, reminded us that the German government expects to receive, at the very least, 800,000 refugees this year alone. Some reports put the figure closer to 1.5 million refugees.

As generous as the Germans have been – Munich alone has taken in tens of thousands in a few weeks – they then effectively suspended the Schengen Agreement, for a short while, closing their border with Austria.

This Agreement allows for its temporary suspension during emergencies, for periods of between two weeks and two months.

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In reluctantly closing the border for a while, the German government recognised the need for a sustainable and strategic solution to what looks like a longer-term problem.

Donald Tusk, the chairperson of EU leadership summits, said recently that the crisis would remain a challenge for many years to come.

Schengen is beloved of most European politicos because it is seen as a core representation of what the European experiment represents – open trade and the free exchange of people and ideas.

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This article was first published on 2020PLUS.NET.



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About the Author

Mal Fletcher is a media social futurist and commentator, keynote speaker, author, business leadership consultant and broadcaster currently based in London. He holds joint Australian and British citizenship.

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