Here you can read the german version of the text.
The moment when the Dublin Regulation was shattered was a major moment for civil society and for everyday Europeans. On Monday, when Hungarian security forces ceased preventing refugees from entering Keleti Station in Budapest and instead allowed them to board trains, hundreds of Vienna residents poured into the city’s Westbahnhof train station. People quickly emptied products from the shelves of the supermarket located in the underground level of the station. ÖBB, Austria’s national railway, dispatched special trains to the border to pick up passengers from overcrowded Hungarian trains. When the first trains arrived in Vienna, teams of interpreters had formed, seemingly out of nowhere. Tasks were assigned and everything went like clockwork. There were helpers on hand from the Catholic charity Caritas, the national railway, volunteers, the Red Cross -- and these groups have had the last word at the station ever since.
The majority of those fleeing continued on to Munich, where similar scenes unfolded -- ones of helpfulness and of open arms.
Europe, in short, is showing its worst face and its best face at exactly the same time.
The worst face is represented by Europe of the elite, with their impracticable, exclusionary rules combined with their inability to govern humanely. With its bureaucratic absurdity, the Dublin Regulation is the symbol of this failure. It is difficult to know where to start in explaining everything that is wrong with this repulsive regulation. Is it the provision stipulating that a person can request asylum here in Germany, but that airlines are required to pick up all the costs if they fly a person here who doesn’t meet the criteria for asylum status? In practical terms, this means that no airline is willing to allow any refugees on board -- people who could be paying €300 for a flight rather than €10,000 to human trafficking gangs, only to be transported on deadly routes to places where they have a legal right to apply for asylum. Or perhaps the absurd policy that asylum proceedings in Europe’s borderless Schengen area must be conducted in the country where the person seeking protection first touched EU soil. Yet there is no mechanism for distributing the asylum seekers among all EU member states, meaning the bloc’s periphery states must bear the lion’s share of the burden. It’s a policy that, in practice, creates a perverse inter-European competition to see which country can do the best job of keeping refugees out.
And even those countries that are taking in large numbers of refugees, such as Germany and Austria, are marked by the discourse of isolation being pursued by their political elites. Germany, for example, pressured the Italians to put a stop to its "Mare Nostrum" program, which sought to help refugee boats in distress. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said at the time that the program was tantamount to "the abetment of human trafficking." According to his fuzzy logic, if refugees knew they would be rescued, it would increase their willingness to board a ship. The flip-side of this argument is that if many drown, then others would be less willing to try. Of course, were you to ask Thomas de Maizière today, he would say he didn't mean it like that.
And yes, the British and Polish governments are behaving even more shamefully. The latter would presumably even feel overburdened if they were asked to take in just four or five people seeking shelter.
Keleti Station in Budapest on Wednesday night. The station’s underground level is packed with thousands of refugees, along with their tents, sleeping bags, suitcases and backpacks. It is a gigantic refugee camp with an estimated 3,000 people. The handful of helpers in the Migration Aid Center -- who collect and distribute donations and aid supplies -- are hopelessly overextended. The health and hygiene conditions are catastrophic. Small children and even babies sleep on the floor. This Hungary is supposed to be responsible for the refugees according to the Dublin Regulation? We in Europe talk about safe countries of origin outside the EU? You only have to spend a couple hours in this train station to know that not even EU-member Hungary is a safe country for those seeking help. People from Vienna, located just a two-and-a-half hour drive from here, keep showing up. And each of them has a family with children in their backseat when they return to Austria. It’s not legal. But what does that matter? On Sunday, an entire convoy of cars is set to head from Vienna to Budapest. It’s clever motto: "Rail Replacement Service."
It’s as though there were two realities: On the one hand is scandalous misery and the governments, with their dysfunctional asylum policies and attempts to seal their countries off. On the other is the wave of helpfulness, the uprising of volunteer helpers. The reports and images of people who are doing all they can. Racist agitators and "asylum critics" have been almost completely drowned out. Even completely normal people -- not just those often referred to as "do-gooders" -- are suddenly proud of the fact that their society is presenting itself in the best possible light. Suddenly, it is no longer the good ones who are disheartened and despondent -- for they are giving each other courage in these difficult days. Rather, it is the mean-spirited who have suddenly become quiet. Agitating and standing by as others drown suddenly isn't cool anymore.
The one Europe is failing. And the other is putting its best foot forward.
Translated by Charles Hawley