Opinion: Europe Must Be Open To Refugees Fleeing Persecution

Greece is now on track to produce a “primary surplus” a budget surplus this year before interest payments. Gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter expanded for the first time in four years. That means that instead of shrinking 4.2%, the Greek economy will only contract 3.8% in 2013. Unemployment has also dropped recently, albeit only by a hair’s breadth. Greece’s Economic Sentiment Index (ESI) also climbed in September to the highest level in two years. Most importantly, Greece has made money for investors, with the Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF rallying 43.55% in over the past six months. Much of that has come since Sept. 1, with GREK jumping 23.92% in September and rising 6.58% this month. 1. Back during the housing boom, Spain boasted it was the “California of Europe.” It turned out it was more like Las Vegas and Phoenix, with its housing crash bringing the Spanish banking system to the brink of collapse. The fourth-largest economy in the euro zone after Germany, France and Italy, Spain’s economy is now 7.5% smaller than it was five years ago. But unlike Italy, Spain has bitten the austerity bullet. And the news about the economy is improving. The Spanish economy is officially out of recession. The government estimates the economy will expand by 0.7% year.

Although it may be awful, sadly this is neither an unusual nor unfamiliar story. According to the UNHCR, in 2012, some 15,000 migrants and asylum-seekers reached Italy and Malta and almost 500 people were reported dead or missing at sea. The figures are damning and shameful. Too many people are dying in their attempts to reach safety in Europe and much more needs to be done to address the root causes of why people risk their lives in this way. One thing is clear — this latest incident is an appalling reminder of what happens when people escaping persecution are denied access to safety at the EU’s frontiers. While we don’t know the personal circumstances of everyone on board this particular boat, we do know that the majority were from Somalia and Eritrea, two of the top 10 sources of refugees in the world, according to the UNHCR. Both are countries with well documented human rights abuses. Dozens dead in Italian boat accident Given this, it’s reasonable to believe that a number of people on board were refugees, fleeing persecution and seeking safety in Europe where there are substantial and settled Somali and Eritrean communities. Yet there’s been considerable head scratching in the media about why people would put themselves at such risk. Why would you get on an overcrowded, potentially unseaworthy vessel and risk your life to make it to Lampedusa? For refugees, the answer is simple — what they’re leaving behind is much, much worse.

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