The following is a first-hand update about interns Christy and Palmer Hurst, who are two of the three Center interns with the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) this summer. Christy and Palmer met at Regent University School of Law and were married the summer after their 1L year.
As Christy and I immerse ourselves more in our European experience, we are challenged to learn about and understand the challenges that Europe is facing. As the presidential race kicks off back home and illegal immigration is picked up again as a hot topic, Europe is also struggling with its own immigration crisis. The European Union has seen an incredible surge in illegal immigration (which Europeans refer to as “migration”) across its southern border. Some migrants cross on foot from Turkey into the EU via Greece, but many attempt the dangerous crossing over the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to Italy or Spain. The majority of migrants cross the choppy water from Tunisia to the Italian island of Lampadusa or Sicily. This is no simple boat ride. Crowded onto boats that are often not meant for the rough waters of the Mediterranean, migrants die from exposure, dehydration, drowning, and are subjected to theft, abuse, rape, and enslavement. Migrants come from all over North Africa, West Africa, and the Middle East. The recent conflicts in Mali, Nigeria, Libya, Syria, and Iraq have exponentially increased the number of migrants willing to risk their lives and life savings to make it to the safety and prosperity of Europe. Once in the EU, however, migrants can be subjected to further violence from corrupt and abusive government officials, police, and anti-immigrant groups.
The European response to this crisis has been slow and underwhelming. The EU member states most affected are on the southern reaches of the Union: namely Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, and Hungary. This disproportionate effect has created a “it’s not my problem” attitude throughout the Union. Unfortunately, the countries most affected by the migration crisis are also the most crippled by the financial crisis. Greece, Italy, and Spain simply cannot spend the money necessary to respond to the humanitarian crisis washing up on their shores.
The European Center for Law and Justice is on the front lines of the migration crisis, fighting to ensure that migrants are seen for what they are, human beings with dignity and rights trying to make a better life. A cohesive and humanitarian approach to the migration issue would include recognizing the human dignity and sovereignty of the migrants once they are on European soil, treating all migrants in accordance with Article III of the European Convention on Human Rights (which is a duty of all member states, regardless of their political stance on the migration issue), and implementing serious and real reforms of the asylum, immigration, and assistance government programs, especially in the European south. These reforms must come in a number of ways, but above all must recognize human dignity, appreciate desperation, and aim to service a group of fellow humans who have known nothing but pain and exploitation. By shining a light on the issue and bringing a voice to those who have been victimized, the ECLJ is helping to create a policy that recognizes the dignity and worth of each migrant attempting the long crossing of the Mediterranean.