Over the last few weeks, ever since the refugee and migrant crisis started flooding us through other routes as well, a lot was said and written of the most-affected countries, of the building of walls, of the Dublin regulation failure, of the dangers for Schengen, of the imperfections in the proposal for quota allocation among member states, not to mention the threats to multiculturalism. Maps came out, showing the most difficult passing points for refugees. What is missing, however, is a map of humanity. It may be a good idea to draw one. As a leading point I would place Croatia, which over the past weeks presented itself as a country where humanity and compassion towards refugees dominates on all levels – in politicians, media, and ordinary citizens. It should be noted that the Church has a quite controversial role.
It all started with the notorious line of Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić, who said that because of the Hungarian wall the refugee flow would be redirected towards Bulgaria and Croatia. The two states reacted in two totally opposite ways. In Croatia, both media and politicians began discussing whether the country is prepared. Prominent media were dominated by reports on the places where the expected thousands of refugees could be sheltered, what the condition of buildings was at these sites, and the amount of food supplies. The Croatian Red Cross opened a special escrow account. Prime Minister Zoran Milanović spoke of people, “not sacks of cabbage” and stated that no walls would be built along the border with Serbia. “I think these people should be given an opportunity to find a job, to create, to pay taxes, to contribute, for they are probably not going back, and they shouldn't”, said the prime minister recently.
His First Deputy and Minister of Foreign Affairs Vesna Pusić, in turn, stated openly that she thinks nothing good of the countries building walls. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović kept silent for a long time but she finally came out with a statement, saying this was only the beginning of the crisis. Even conservative MEP Ruža Tomašić (European Conservatives and Reformists), seen as a nationalist by many in Croatia, stated that “it is our duty to take care of them and offer them shelter and a decent human life”. She did, however, warn that there is no money nor infrastructure to accept all migrants, but a certain number for sure. “These are no savages, as some are saying”, she added after participating in a humanitarian operation in Sicily. “In Mesina, we met a 16 year old child. The other tribe murdered both his parents, and he speaks four languages. These children came alone and at least to them we must offer the best possible future”, Ms Tomašić told N1 television.
National television channel HRT came out yesterday with an appeal to help parents, running from war with their children. The association “Parents in action” is organising the donation of all possible aid – from baby carriers, including the “Kangaroo” type, through baby food, clothes, and anything that could make life easier for those fleeing. The association was happy to report on television that at the very start of the campaign a woman called and bought not one, but five baby carriers. They also said many people responded offering to help with whatever is needed. “Every day we can see photos of refugees, parents, struggling to carry their children on a long journey. There is a way you can help them directly”, is the message of the state TV channel that is visible immediately after opening its website.
One of the most prominent national daily newspapers, issued in Rijeka, Novi list, published a huge article today with a headline “Humanity before all: Croatia has prepared 1500 tents and a system for taking fingerprints”. Under the heading the newspaper pints: “The Croatian Red Cross will provide decent living conditions to the people, especially children, elderly, pregnant, sick. The police is preparing as well, although they have no data so far that the refugee flow is diverting into Croatia”.
One of the leading news of the Index website on the other hand is the protest of 20 thousand people in Vienna, supporting the refugees and against the bad treatment they receive. The reason for the protest is last week’s tragedy that took place in Austria after the discovery of a truck with 71 refugees, found suffocated and in an advanced process of decomposition. “Asylum is a human right”, “Refugees, you are welcome”, and “I do not want Europe becoming a mass grave” are some of the slogans reported the website.
Regardless of the messages of politicians from across the political spectrum and the humane attitude of the media, society attitudes are rather negative. Croatian television channel RTL conducted a survey with the following question: “If the refugee flow from Serbia redirects into Croatia, will you commit to helping them?”. 58% or 2697 people chose the reply “I am against accepting refugees and will not participate in humanitarian efforts”. 27 out of a hundred or 1240 people answered “Absolutely, in such situations we must show humanity and solidarity”. “I do not know, it depends on how I could help them” answered 15% or 692 people.
Anyway, attitudes are largely influenced by the prevailing messages. Alas, as good as the headline sounds, humanity cannot be allocated by quotas. You either have it, or you don’t. This, however, says a lot about societies – both the individual national ones and the European society as a whole.
Translated by Stanimir Stoev