12. March 2020 Thousands are dying at the European borders – and with them human rights

Next year the Geneva Convention on Refugees will be 70 years old. This “Convention relating to the Status of Refugees” is the foundation of refugee law. With the death of tens of thousands of people at the external borders of Europe, with the suspension of the right to asylum, with the general arrest and collective deportation of refugees, we are currently witnessing the death of the Refugee Convention and with it the abandonment of the universality of human rights.
In 1938, 32 states met at the Évian Conference to discuss the treatment of Jewish refugees from Germany. An evacuation of as many Jewish people as possible from Germany failed due to the lack of receptiveness of most states. Ten years later, at the UN General Assembly in Paris, we looked back on the greatest, most incomprehensible crime in human history, on a destroyed Europe, on millions murdered and millions displaced. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. The Refugee Convention was intended to guarantee respect for the human rights of refugees.
We do not want to lightly compare the present time with the 1930s and 1940s. What we are witnessing, however, is that the lives of people from certain regions, the lives of supposed members of certain groups, are seen as less worthy of protection in principle, the basic values of these people are seen as dispensable.
In view of this situation, a policy of small steps is difficult to bear. Clearly, these small steps are important. On the other hand, however, we have to keep our eyes on the whole picture – and this view is a reminder to us to use all we have to resist the impending death of human and international rights, the death of thousands of refugees – every single day, always and everywhere.