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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Refugees in Europe: A Comprehensive Look

Filed under: Europe

Fiamma Nirenstein: Thank you very much, then. And first of all, I feel like I have to explain from my side why we did this book. We do so many books about issues that are in a way connected to the Middle East, and this is for sure connected to that in the way that Dore explained, and in a way that he will particularly find in the essay, a beautiful essay of Yossi Kuperwasser, but it can seem a little different, a little bizarre that the JCPA just deals with the issue of immigration in Europe, a little beyond the Mediterranean Sea. The reason why comes directly from the previous work that we have done about Europe, you know probably because we invited you and sent the book to you and we discussed it with you, that we did the two—in recent times, we have done very many—but in recent times, we, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has done two previous books about Europe. One is about terrorism in Europe, and what Israel can teach to Europe about the fight against terrorism, and the second one is about the very complicated relationship between Europe and Israel, and we dealt with it in several different ways.

Okay, this last issue, the issue of immigration, comes natural after the two others, as strange as it can seem in the beginning, because it’s just the sum of all the problems of Europe. It’s the sum of the problems that I will identify very quickly, like problems of borders, problems of identity, problems of different opinions between the nation-states that are part of the European Union. So that’s—so—in front of this huge and dramatic event of millions and millions of people, even if today the numbers are around—the last year we only had something around 200,000 arrivals in Europe, no more than that, because the numbers have gone down very much, having had their peak in 2015, the terrible 2015 that everybody remembers, but afterwards things have gone a little differently, because of many reasons you will find in the book now—I’m not going deeply into that. But, you know, for Europe, seeing this mass of people sailing on poor, lousy little boats crossing the sea, sometimes—many times—drawing into the waves—taking these—going onto these boats without any insurance that the travel will finish in a good way, putting in danger the lives of their own family, of their own children, trying to cross the sea no matter what, very often putting themselves in the hands of dangerous criminals, as sometimes have been the people that pretended to help them, and in fact just trafficked about their lives. Well for Europe, to see suddenly all of this huge wave falling on its shore has been in incredible shock, and each of the nation-states that are part of Europe answer in a different way, with a different concept of identity, with a different concept of what the future will be, with a different concept of globalization, with a different concept of community of interests, and suddenly, on a different concept also of what will be the economy of Europe, that in particular in 2015 was suffering in a special way.

So today, I can see the Hungarian Ambassador on one side of the table, and the representative of the German Embassy, that I thank very much for being here, which are two nations that answered in a completely different way to the—to what happened with immigrants. So, and you know what? It’s was not only this, it gave the floor to a war of politics, a war of words, that, in Italy for instance, in these days you would certainly know about what’s happening in these days in Italy, with the boat, with the ship, that by strength entered the port in Lampedusa, without the permission, and almost broke into, into the police, into the sea police, almost killing the policemen who were there, and well, I’m not going into that story, but for sure this is very shocking, very impressive, and it shows—and what did we see about that? What one says is fascist to the other, the one that is called fascist says communist to the other, and the use of the words, it’s all connected only to a political aim, without an exam of the issues. So we won’t, and here in our essay, you will find, I hope, exposed in a fair and clear way, the numbers, the reasons, the nationality, the reasons most of all, of what happened. And we tried to go also into the problem of why Europe wasn’t able to give an answer, we tried to respond to that. We have our opinions, and sometimes the opinions of the writers here are not just the same.

There is also something more that I want to say: We, the Jewish people, are very sensitive to the issue of immigration, for two different reasons, one opposite to the other. On one side, we are immigrants, Kibbutz Galuyot, nobody could say the opposite. We just came from every part of the world, we speak different—we spoke different languages, we had different traditions, and we were all in a dire need of being welcomed by our own country, Israel. Now, when we are in Israel, we have also the opposite problem. We have a nationality, we have borders, we have an identity, we have a sense of a nation state that has to be defended. So we are on both the sides, if you understand what I mean. So it gave us a high spirit in facing the problems, from two different feelings, from two different points of view. So that’s why for us, it was so very important to have this colloquia, with Professor Asa Kasher in the book, because Professor Asa Kasher, being a professor in ethics, the one that you certainly know wrote the code of behavior of the Israeli Army, was for Asa’s soul very important to speak with, to give us an ethic code of what to do about immigration. When do you have to welcome them, but when is it the time to push them back? When is the time—well, the answer we have here are not one track answers, they are complicated and emotion answers that I hope will give the way to an interesting discussion for everybody.

The other essays, the one of Alan Baker, Ambassador Alan Baker, who is an expert in international law, just gives an idea of what are the international laws that are interested in the subject, and give us the rules, and what it shows is that no one of them is good for an emergency, you will see that for yourself. We need a totally new way of thinking about this subject, and this is our suggestion, as you can admit, an ethic and legal, completely different. And also, the essay of Yossi Kuperwasser, General Yossi Kuperwasser’s, explains how there is a problem, however you want to call it, and there is the fact that Islamic immigration in Europe, that nobody wants to call by its name. We dare doing that because we are used to doing it. We have an Islamic problem all over the world, and the Israelis have to call it by name, otherwise it puts their lives in danger. Kuperwasser explains how organizations—extreme organizations in the Muslim world, without thinking at all that all the Muslims are all extreme, but the extreme organizations, like the Muslim Brotherhood, tried to push the Islamic immigration in the direction that is certainly not welcome by Europe, because it’s a violent attitude.

There is also an essay of a younger man, by the name of Tommaso Virgili, Dr. Tommaso Virgili, that works in Brussels, and he’s an expert, most of all, in numbers, and he deals with the issue of how we receive, how Europe receives the—and you will see that when you have saved somebody—and this is a duty, and they finish with that—you save somebody, you bring them on the land, and you have done nothing, because when he is on the land—yes it’s true that you saved him and you have to save him and you must save him—and there is no discussion about that—but you don’t know how to make him have a better life, or how you make the people—so here there is a very good suggestion of Professor Kasher that says respect is a key word; respect towards the immigrants and respect towards the people that received them. This key that must be [speaks Italian] binary, it’s a suggestion that you will find it explained in the book.

A very typical legal subject that all the states in Europe discuss about is the Dublin Agreement, which states what you should do with the people that you save in the sea. And nobody agrees about that, you know? Just save them in the sea, and then what? Theoretically, according to the Dublin Agreement, you should bring them to the nearest port, but of course, this makes Italy the recipient of all the people that cross the Mediterranean. And Italy—and that’s the reason why a political process that completely changed the Italian government started this way, and it came to reality when the new government was brought, and then it was just a government that opposed the practical way. They were receiving according to the Dublin Agreement. Everybody was just saved in the water of the Mediterranean Sea by Italian ships, because this is the international law nowadays, and it is unacceptable, of course. And here, there comes another problem. I hate when they say “Oh, come on!” Now in Italy there was 41 people on that boat. What is that! 41! Who is not able to receive 41 people? Here there is an article that says—it is of yesterday I think—that says more than half of the Arab World—young adults—wants to leave. And we know that there are different extremes, but there are—somebody says 50 million—somebody say 70 million people—are ready to leave on the shores of different not-lucky parts of the world. So, it’s a huge storm coming to our shores. This is very important to understand.

Whatever is the attitude that you take, it is something big, and here I come to the last point, which is to save them in the sea, here we have shown even in our discussion, there is no discussion about it. Of course, when you see somebody sinking in the sea, what, would you not save him? Of course you do! You send a ship and you save them. It’s the second part which is the most important. And here we have all the identification, you don’t know who they are, they don’t come with documents. You don’t know where they come from, who they are, they hide it from you. You will never know if they are refugees or if they are searching just for work, and the way.

Voice: Or al-Qaeda!

Fiamma: Or al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is a minority. But even if you look at large numbers, still you don’t know who they are. If you don’t identify them, then you are not able to understand what they want from you, what kind of work they can do, if they can be useful to your society, if they refuse your society. So after identification, you have to verify who they are, where they can be, and what they can do. And whatever that you decide you have identified them, you have to understand how you educate them, or you would understand if they simply accept your society. If they accept your rules. They don’t want to American, as you mentioned before. They don’t want to be European in most of the case. Not really. They want to be themselves in Europe. Somebody says that this is a good thing, they say “We respect your culture.” But when this culture brings to the point there is polygamy, you cannot accept it anymore, because polygamy has been overcome since so many—it’s a big, big problem. We have it. We cannot ignore it.

And then you have to understand how to help them. And here, in our book, we say “Build, build, and build,” right Professor Kasher? You say it three times: build, build, and build. Build outside Europe, build where they are, and sometimes, also build in Europe wherever you can. For instance, there is a suggestion: if you decide to accept plenty of these people, build some experiment towns where they can try to live your life, and you can see if they accept your life or if they don’t. If they want to learn your language, or they don’t. If their children want to melt with our children, or if they prohibit this, and they are very worried about celebrating Christmas or Chanukah in our schools.

Fiamma Nerenstein: This is not as successful an experiment, there are some. Okay, so I finish with this. In the book you find many of these issues. Now we had a great discussion, it was very interesting. But the book is very—goes deep into it. So we will love to be in touch with you after you read the book too. And we will understand, eh?

Voice: We will test you!

Fiamma Nirenstein: Yeah, we will test you, give you marks, and we will try, we will try to understand if you really read it! No, that’s for sure—it’s a joke, but this is just to tell you we have done a useful job, and okay, we will have another occasion, or when you will let us know about it. Thank you very much for being here, it was very interesting.