Prof. Tomasz ALEKSANDROWICZ: "The Europe of refugees. The few crucial questions that have to be answered"

"The Europe of refugees. The few crucial questions that have to be answered"

Photo of Prof. Tomasz ALEKSANDROWICZ


Associate Professor of the Police Academy in Szczytno. Information management expert in the Centre for Research on Terrorism. Founding member of the Collegium Civitas Institute of Information Studies.

Ryc.: Fabien Clairefond

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The refugees from the Middle East have made it to the biggest headlines and no wonder they have been there for several weeks now. The scenes depicted by the media are shocking. The islands of Kos and Lampedusa, the Serbian-Hungarian border, the entrance to the tunnel under the English Channel – pictures sent from those places every day confront the public with the tragedy.

.It is hard to debate on that, especially when emotions prevail over cool reasoning. Both those for and against taking in the refugees tend to morally blackmail the ones on the other side.

Those not in favour of being hospitable claim they are against it because they perceive it as something on the verge of betrayal of the national and European interests, contribution to cultural collapse, wave of terrorist attacks and total Islamization of Europe. Their opponents interpret every indication of doubt or fear almost as a moral crime, manifestation of chauvinism and abandonment of the ideals of humanity. There is no place for agreement here.

The situation is made even worse by the fact that the EU executive lacks good solutions to the growing crisis. There are no plans, no strategies, no long-term thinking, no comprehensive approach – only certain temporary measures forced by the reality that can no longer be unnoticed. The problem was ignored as long as it was possible. When will the drama of Lampedusa end? How long have the refugees been coming to Greece? How many smugglers’ vessels have crossed the Mediterranean Sea? What shall the strengthening of the EU borders look like – it should not be based on sinking the boats with the refugees, should it?

.Years of neglect are more than obvious. The EU has almost completely abandoned strategic thinking of security. Suffice to say that the European Security Strategy is a document of 2003, that is from a totally different epoch, it regards the European Union, the Europe, the world that have since changed dramatically. Let us face the truth: the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the Common Security and Defence Policy, are mere sheets of paper covered with print, a part of the founding treaties.

Let us put it frankly: the EU is no longer an entity generating safety – that is supposed to be provided by NATO, preferably for US dollars.

If in doubt, one should try to answer two strategic questions regarding the refugee influx crisis: what are the interests and goals of the EU and what methods will be used to obtain them? What do we actually want? Would we like the refugees to stop coming or, if they have come already, to leave for somewhere else? Should the people turn into model Europeans, adapt our cultural values and look for a job? How are we going to achieve this? Helping the refugees from Syria and Libia is comparable to rushing to help a drowning man – one must know how to do that, otherwise they risk joining the drowning one under water.

The main thing I notice while reading so many different opinions on the subject is hysteria, whereas what we need most is strategy.

We must prepare ourselves to answer the following basic questions: what are our interests and goals?; in what conditions do we function (opportunities, challenges, threats, risks)?; how will we act? and what means are at our disposal? The West has had enough time to ask these questions and to look for the answers. The time has been wasted. Today we face the situation that we are too unprepared for.

.We react ad hoc, emotionally, chaotically, without any plan – as if one saw a drowning man and, being an unskillful swimmer, they thought frantically: „Shall I jab him with a stick? Or look for a boat? Won’t jumping in the water and swimming be better? Or maybe calling for help?”. As a result both may drown. Who will stand on the other one’s shoulders to survive?

Although the questions may be multiplied, one can hardly ask them without being called a traitor or a chauvinist. Yet remaining silent will not make the problems disappear. One thing we may be certain of is that the world as we know it is coming to an end. Below I put forward a few ideas that I know may expose me to attacks from here or there.

.First, the problems will not disappear earlier than their sources will have. The wave of refugees cannot be stopped without the situation in the Middle East being normalized, whereas the „normalization” means war and physical liquidation of the Islamic State. In this context the determination of the ISIS members and followers may bring the strategy of scorched earth, possibly also homicide. What would the reaction be of the Arabic states? What about the retaliation – terrorist attacks on what scale would we have to expect in Europe? The unfortunate historical facts must be taken into account: the West behaves in Middle Eastern affairs like a bull in a china shop. It is enough to look at the country borders in North Africa – drawn on the map with pencil and setsquare. By whom? Obviously not by the Arabs.

As an alternative a coalition of Arabic states should be set up united against the ISIS. The policies of the West should aim for that, but it is doubtful they succesfully will. There is a vicious circle here: the ISIS rule causes the waves of refugees and the former may be removed in war which in turn intensifies the latter.

The problem is that such analyses should be already on the leading European politicians’ desks. It is hard to believe they are when we observe the actions taken so far.

.Secondly, disregarding the political events in the Middle East we clearly have a problem here and now: the refugees in Europe. Let us ask the politically incorrect question: what should we do with them? We should help them, that is for sure, but how? In my opinion comparing the current situation to Poles finding refuge in India or Iraq during WWII is purely demagogic. The Poles were not aggressive, did not oppose the host’s system of values, did not organize patrols to check the compliance with the social norms imposed by them and did not object to presence of the Muslim crescent in public space with the claim of it being an offence for them. They did not turn to the authorities for exemption of a certain territory from the rule of the local laws. The clergy did not make calls for crusades.

After the defeat of the policy of multiculturalism in Europe the concept of assimilation is regaining its meaning and applicability (and rightly so). Yet what if one does not want to assmilate?

Will we find the courage to tell him „if you don’t like the miniskirts worn by the European gils, move to the part of the world where women wear hijabs” or „you don’t like Christmas wishes – leave for where you won’t hear or see them”? Will we?

.Thirdly, there is no doubt that the influx of refugees brings with it the risk of radicalism and terror. I will refrain from commenting on the words spoken publicly by a certain respectable person with a long record of charity work: „well, their faces are not faces of terrorists”! There is no doubt the threats are real, nonetheless this should not set us against all refugees. On the other hand, it must not free us from remaining watchful.

It is hard not to ask another question: are our secret services skilled enough, do they possess enough power and means for reconnaissance, elimination of threats? Terrorism is a peculiar phenomenon: one man can be more harmful than hundreds. It should therefore not be overlooked that most of the refugees – in fact 75%! – are young males without families, not women and children.

.Fourthly, the social reactions. In Germany fire is set every day to asylum centres. The societies are threatened by Muslim radicals as much as by the ordinary Europeans. How many will throw stones? How many will follow Anders Breivik? We need to be prepared. Are we?


.The data we have is terryfing. In 2014 the number of refugees reached 60 million – which is similar to the population of Great Britain. The phrase „big human migration” has just been acquiring a new sense. The millions are victims of war looking for their place on Earth. There seems to be no-one to provide it for them. The West spreads its hands helplessly. These are the gravest consequences of wars, military clashes, actions of various armed gangs and warlords.

Since Poland is not a lonely island, the problems are ours as well. They have not only moral or humanitarian implications, but also practical ones, referring to safety. The wave cannot be stopped, not to mention averted.

We need to face the problems then. The refugees must be given help, but wisely, so that they make use of it and so we do not evoke further threats. Bob Dylan’s lyrics are not at all out of place here:

How many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesnít see?

How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?

Yet the answers will not come with the wind. We need to find them ourselves.

Tomasz Aleksandrowicz

This content is protected by copyright. Any further distribution without the authors permission is forbidden. 13/09/2015
Fot: Refugee Welcome Centre, Hamburg | Rasande Tyskar | Flickr CC