Key messages – Ukraine refugee emergency and EU Strategic Compass

Europe’s welcome of Ukrainian refugees seeking safety has shown that an open-hearted response on a big scale to refugee emergencies

Europe’s welcome of Ukrainian refugees seeking safety has shown that an open-hearted response on a big scale to refugee emergencies was always possible.

  • The Ukraine response should set a benchmark for how we deal with humanitarian emergencies.
  • We have been told by politicians and the powerful that welcoming people seeking safety was impractical and impossible. That lie has been exposed by societies across Europe who have embraced people in need.  
  • But the Ukrainian refugee response still needs improving. We need to act on racism at the Ukrainian border, we need a guarantee that Ukrainian refugees will have working rights and social security in Europe, and we need to pressure some countries (e.g. the UK) to do their part.  

We cannot allow there to be two classes of refugees; while Europe welcomes some people seeking safety, it is doubling down on a strategy that kills others.

  • While the Ukraine response reflects well on Europe, the way it treats others fleeing war shames Europe. For years, European governments have turned the Mediterranean Sea into a graveyard, poured our money into the hands of profiteers to build ever more weapons and walls, and criminalised rescuers – all to stop people seeking safety.
  • Europe’s new Strategic Compass document is the latest step in this brutality. It is a plan that would continue to militarise the border and strengthen the industries that profit from border violence, and it risks entrenching a view that human movement is a threat to be managed by force.
  •  What is a tragedy for people is seen by profiteers as an opportunity; the arms, border, and surveillance firms behind extreme border violence are often the same ones that openly gloat about their profits soaring at the prospect of war. Their business model is chaos; from war to displacement to climate change.

The inhumanity of war must be contrasted with  a demonstration of our humanity, compassion, and solidarity.

  • The resources spent on border violence should instead be spent on ensuring we can welcome people, and refugees and their host communities can live well together.
  • A world that resorts to force to solve all its problems will be more dangerous for us all. We’ve seen how selfishness shoots us in the foot: failure to roll out the COVID vaccine globally has delayed our exit from the pandemic. Now we’re already seeing climate impacts hit the most vulnerable and powerful countries respond by trying to shut themselves off rather than address the issues. We can and must do better. 
  • The human values behind the outpouring of solidarity for Ukrainian refugees are the ones that should guide our wider approach to building a safer and more decent world for all.

Additional messaging for climate campaigners: 

As interstate rivalry escalates, we have to be clear that a siege mentality is no way of dealing with the challenges of a more unstable world. We cannot simply cut ourselves off from problems – that’s not how real life works. We have already seen how vaccine-hoarding has hamstrung the pandemic response. We know that there are record levels of displacement around the globe and a high chance that current instability will produce more. And above all, we know in ever more detail since the IPCC’s latest damning report this month, the humanitarian emergency facing us if we fail to get emissions under control and build our ability to manage the consequences of climate change. 

We’re already seeing climate impacts hit the most vulnerable while fossil fuel corporations rake in windfall profits. And we’re seeing border and surveillance firms – themselves closely linked to polluters – profit from the consequences of climate change by peddling weapons and walls to punish people displaced in a warming world. Those who benefit from the climate emergency are well-organised and we must be equally so in demanding safety for all on a liveable planet. 

Op-ed providing context and broad narrative: