The summer dying season is now well under way in the Mediterranean, with news of yet another tragedy at sea as desperate people try to reach Europe still able to shock, if not surprise.
But the 71 people who slowly suffocated in the back of a grocery truck this week had already made it to the European Union. They should have reached the sanctuary they were seeking from the barrel bombs, chemical weapons and Isis terror of Syria. That they still had to risk their lives and die in a manner more expected in the holds of dilapidated Libyan fishing vessels, or packed trucks crossing the Sahara, is a damning indictment of the European Union’s broken asylum system.
The Austrian authorities have confirmed that Syrian papers were found on the bodies, so the 59 men, eight women and four children would have been eligible for humanitarian protection.
Chances are that many of the refugees had travelled overland from Greece, having already risked their lives on a sea crossing from Turkey. However, Greece right now cannot even offer the refugees food and shelter from the elements, let alone jobs and a chance of building a secure future.
But there is no legal way for the people arriving in the EU periphery states to apply to move on to countries where they can get basic levels of care, reunite with family, or have a hope of working.
The current system requires them to register and stay in their country of arrival. If they are caught in another nation, they can be deported. EU nations have agreed to redistribute 32,000 refugees, but when 107,500 people arrive in a single month, that barely scratches the surface.
So the Syrians, Afghans, Palestinians and others turn once more to smugglers, who force them to pay thousands of euro, and are forced to risk death again crossing borders in a union founded on the principals of respect for the human rights and dignity for all.
If the 71 Syrians had a hope of applying for resettlement while still in Turkey or Greece, perhaps they would not have ended their lives in a truck parked in an Austrian lay-by on a hot summer’s day.Reuse content