This is an article that got published in our school magazine last year. It’s slightly dated but it’s still pretty relevant. There are some factual inaccuracies but that’s because a lot has changed n the political landscape since I wrote this.
Please comment below about your thoughts on the issue; I’d be glad to see more fruitful debate ensue within the comments section.
All photographs are mine.
The five-hour-long train from Vienna was dull; more so since it was dawn.
I made myself snug on the seat, wrapping a warm blanket protectively over me as I sat. I tried to peer out of the window on my left, but the blackness outside—broken in a few patches in the sky by the early rays of the sun—was all that responded to my eyes as they darted from one place in the compartment to another.
I thought of the verdant, green, windmill-dotted meadows I might have passed by if it were day; the scene would have been idyllic in every way—pale blue skies, feathery clouds, small red-roofed huts. Svelte deer would be poised nimbly on rocks in the steeper places, where the mountains coasted almost abruptly to a halt.
The man switched to English. What he said made us shudder: not in fear, but with a mixed sentiment of anticipation and insecurity.The EuroCity train suddenly screeched to a stop. We sat up, startled, as did the others in the compartment. Out of nowhere, a voice started speaking in German. It was the train driver on the microphone. Uncertainty passed through the eyes of our fellow passengers, which gave way to expressions of sheer skepticism.
The next stop, five kilometers away, would witness refugees get onto the train. They would be taken to some place in Austria where the train was scheduled to stop.
Sure enough, five minutes later, our train stopped, at what, I supposed, was maybe the least important station in all of Austria.
I peered outside. Everything was a bright golden colour, having been bathed in the rays of the sun. And there was a crowd outside—a big one. A moment later, an assortment of men, women, teenagers, and wailing babies trooped into the compartment, distraught looks on their faces. Most of them carried huge, bulky suitcases and overloaded backpacks. The rest carried bundles of warm clothes—sweaters, mackintoshes, jackets, woolen caps, shawls, scarves—under their arms.
The German TT tried his best to be civil and shepherd them into the next compartment, apparently reserved for them. They finally marched into the section set aside for them.
The train sped onward.
I thought of Nicklesdorf, the place on the Austria-Hungary border where our bus had passed through on the day we came to Vienna from Budapest. That was just a week before. The ‘border’ was just a small parking-lot-kind-of space, with about a kilometer of fencing, perhaps less. I just a glimpse of the site as our big Dr. Richard bus cruised through the gates.
That day, I really perceived what the white-haired fellow from BBC World News blabbered on about on the TV set all day.
I spotted my very first group of refugees on the border.
They formed an ugly blob of black paint upon the picturesque scenery. It was as if the crowd spoiled the beautiful sun, as it was settling for off-duty time—its day’s work done—down behind the hills that made a partial ring around the Autobahn.
A swarm of human beings, all huddled together as if they were reanimated corpses.
Most were speaking with each other. It was as if I could hear them, even through the AC and the closed windows of the bus; whispering, whimpering, whining. And I could hear the fear in their voices.
Wearing garish hues of pink and yellow, the children stamped about their mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts. The mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts flashed loud, kitschy shirts and trousers as well.
But I have to say that I was surprised; because barring the elderly, no woman wore a traditional Muslim burkha above their shoulders. All were dressed in laced tops with jeans or trousers, with gaudily colored shawls above their heads.
These people, I knew, were émigrés—wait, no, refugees—from the north African and Middle-Eastern countries like Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Liberia.
Around them were half-a-dozen policemen—all with their wireless man-packs crackling; they were dressed in navy-blue uniforms. The helmets around their heads spelled “Polizei” in frightening black letters.
Today, I caught sight of another group of refugees aboard the train.I felt sorry for the refugees—homeless, most without their family, in an unfamiliar country which was as alien to them as they to it.
Then again in the Praha hlavní nádraží, the Prague Main Station, I had another encounter with refugees.
They were simply everywhere. The men were jostling in a crowd, trying to enter the room (guarded by the Policie, now) where tickets were being sold for trains to Berlin.
The women and children swarmed the floors, sitting on their backpacks, tapping away or blaring on mobile phones, working out hand-me-down jigsaw puzzles donated by kind citizens.
The people were strikingly handsome—even the women. I suppose that’s how it is in the Middle-East. The men were tanned and muscular with jet-black hair. Most women had black hair too, but with shapely faces and bodies. And the children skipped about happily, unaware of the turmoil around them.
Throughout history, people have migrated in great numbers for countless reasons. In days past, people were forced to resettle themselves as slaves, not only, say, in America but also in Russia under Catherine the Great and before the Second World War during Hitler’s slaughter towards the Jews. Indians themselves migrated in droves from both West Punjab (Pakistan) and East Bengal (Bangladesh) post-1947.
Right now the world experiences migration again. Syrians, Somalians, Eritreans—if they can’t use the land route to Europe, with the strictly guarded borders of the East European countries, they use the more dangerous sea route across the Mediterranean. Most boats—small dinghies with too many travelers—overturn. But that offers no discouragement to the rest, so we can only speculate on the extent and magnitude of the ethnic and communal battles that are the reason for this large-scale migration.
Such is their frenzy.
I’ve read that this migration is not only from war-hit countries controlled by callous military groups. Neighboring countries like Libya not only suffer from civil wars but also abject poverty, so it’s difficult for the European Union to distinguish a Libyan from a Syrian. More so, because these migrants have no specific documents with them when they cross borders.
They, I have heard, just gather enough to get onto a boat and move further off from the shores as fast as they can.
Freedom is the only thing on their minds; not food, not water, let alone documents. Only freedom and family.Most leaders of the EU have said time and again that they are and will be continuing to accept this wave of refugees from overseas, Syrian or Libyan or Timbuktoo-ian.
However, if this is the EU’s policy for acceptance, it will mean practically (and this is a conservative estimate) half of Africa will move across to Europe. Europe’s economy—which has a huge margin of development over that of Africa—will slowly and painfully bleed.
The people of Germany, Austria and most other countries welcome these people with open arms, I have seen. The EU, perhaps, wants to make amends for all the havoc its members wreaked on each other in the World Wars.
But what astonishes me most, is the case of Germany. Who will believe that this very nation meted out ruthless execution upon Jews, were the soul of the Holocaust and were the prime reason for the outbreak of the World Wars and other unspeakable disasters?
Under the iron-handed leadership of their Chancellor, Angela Merkel, Germany is—somehow—the most sought-after country, by the refugees, in the whole of Europe and the British Isles. I wonder if it is their strong economy that leads people to Germany. Jobs are for everyone. And there are so many jobs. I suppose that’s the ultimate dream for the jobless from the countries I mentioned.Is it their moral conscience to expiate their faults that drives them forward on this near-impossible quest?
To tell you the truth, I have no faith in the EU’s current policy.
Accepting, accepting, and accepting with so-called rules and regulations.
Some (questionably) brave leaders like Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary, have dared oppose the fierce leadership of Merkel; but I wonder if a civil war among countries that are protecting other people from other civil wars will be a good idea.
Earlier last year, David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain, said that this problem has only one solution: the savage military groups need to be cut at their roots. And I honestly share his views. Until we fight terrorism, instead of letting it rule over us, we’ll end up nowhere, and no better than what we were when we started.
Of late, Barack Obama has conducted a supposed agreement with Vladimir Putin to launch airstrikes upon the IS together.
The EU should stop having petty quibbles within itself and join these Superpowers. Only a united approach, from the world as a whole, can stop the IS.
After all, if Russia and the United States, two nations that have fought indirectly but furtively with each other in the last century, can join hands, I doubt the fact that Europe can’t.