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There is something radically wrong here.....

It is all very well for an American newspaper - in this case The New York Times - to editorialise about how the Europeans ought to address the deluge of refugees flooding into the EU countries (especially when America's shouldering the "burden" is so minuscule) but what the editorial does put forward can't really be argued with.

"It’s not a mystery why Abdul Rahman Haroun wanted to flee Sudan. The mystery is how this 40-year-old man from a rural village managed to reach Europe, get all the way to Calais in the north of France, then over the security fences and past police officers guarding the mouth of the Channel Tunnel and steer clear of 100-mile-an-hour trains to finally reach Britain.

The problem is that Mr. Haroun arrived in the custody of police officers who caught him before he emerged from the tunnel. So for three months he has been in Elmley Prison in southeast England awaiting trial and wondering what he did wrong. In that time, he has become a symbol of all the refugees who go to such extraordinary lengths to reach a safe haven and of the obstacles they face from governments loath to receive them.

The formal charge against Mr. Haroun is based on an obscure law against “obstructing a railway carriage or engine.” There is no argument that running through the tunnel should not be allowed or that French and British authorities should do what they can to stop the hundreds of people gathered at the tunnel entrance at Calais from trying to reach Britain that way. About 150 people try to do that every night, and 16 have been killed in or around Calais since June.

But no refugees should have to take such chances. The people who are part of the largest migration in Europe since World War II should be treated with the compassion, respect for human rights and due process that the European Union stands for. Or should stand for.

However daunting the number of refugees arriving in Europe is, it should not be beyond the means of a wealthy union of a half billion people, many of whom have themselves known the horrors of war, instability, flight and hunger. Yet the 28 members of the European Union have been unable to agree on anything more than a minor distribution of the arrivals, and there has been an unseemly rush among some countries to build walls and point fingers.

Britain has been especially wary; Prime Minister David Cameron even referred to a “swarm” of refugees in Calais. One result is that about 6,000 desperate people are waiting in squalid camps, seeking ways to get through the tunnel.

Advocacy groups argue that the prosecution of Mr. Haroun is a politically motivated attempt to deter the others from trying to reach Britain. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that any of the refugees who have managed to flee from Sudan — or Syria, or Afghanistan, or Somalia, Iraq, Eritrea or North Africa — did so without violating some law. The 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, to which Britain is a signatory, recognizes that and protects refugees from prosecution for illegal entry, which is why Britain is using an arcane law to prosecute Mr. Haroun and others who have made it through the tunnel.

Mr. Haroun may have become the face of the larger humanitarian crisis, but imprisoning him will not stop the flow of refugees. Europe must look for a humane and equitable solution for thousands of Mr. Harouns."


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