In the words of Joni Mitchell, the iconic Canadian singer-songwriter, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone, and this phrase has never rung truer than this year.
A whole host of privileges, taken by many of us as a given, have been denied to us this year.
For many, it is the first time that we have been denied the right to freely cross borders, something that, in the EU, we are used to doing without so much as a passing thought.
And as Christmas approaches, the reality of being separated from loved ones is weighing heavy on many people’s hearts.
This year has demonstrated that the privilege of freely crossing borders and being reunited with your family is exactly that – a privilege.
But we forget that it is already denied to millions of displaced people, not just this year, but year on year, as they flee their homes and seek safer grounds to make a life for themselves.
If anything, the events of this year should deepen our empathy for those in this terrible situation.
And yet, over in France, we saw what can only be described as attacks on vulnerable refugee communities.
In the depths of winter and in the midst of the pandemic, heavily armed French riot police descended on a new protest refugee camp which emerged in the middle of the Place de la République, the site of major French demonstrations, late on Monday night (23 November).
The camp was created after French police dismantled a larger, illegal migrant campsite near the outskirts of the French capital.
Not renowned for their gentle approach when it comes to refugees, the French police are now being condemned for using excessive force.
Police later used tear gas to disperse the rest of the camp, driving the migrants out into the streets of central Paris.
These scenes are shocking, but they are unfortunately all too commonplace in the land of “liberté, égalité and fraternité,” and elsewhere in the EU, where politicians have made little progress in the last five years on adopting concrete plans for handling migrants and refugees.
On a more positive note, as trying as it has been, this year has also demonstrated our enormous capacity for caring.
All across Europe, we see people responding to calls for solidarity, with projects springing up to help support those in need and communities coming together, even if these communities are online.
But this solidarity must be extended beyond our local communities, beyond this year, beyond land to the sea, and beyond borders.
There are many things that we can’t do this year. But showing compassion is not one of them.
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Look out for…
- Justice and Home Affairs ministers discuss terrorism plan
Health ministers expected to focus on the ‘Building a European Health Union’ package and the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe
- last NATO ministerial of the year
Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]