Migration has been the most specific characteristics of the human being and the initial step of globalization since the beginning of history. In today’s world, while globalization and migration continue to feed each other, states are seeking ways to cope up with growing numbers of newcomers. While states have been in search of the “better” and have taken steps accordingly, they have been trying to restrict the “others” to do the same. Walls have been erected or wars have been made to keep the territories safe for the inhabitants by keeping the others on the other side of the borders. However, the definition of the “others” has continually changed from region to region and from time to time. On one hand, universal and regional norms and values are discussed and, on the other hand, specific and marginal measures are considered. As being the Christian Roman Heritage, European perception of “identity” and the “other” has mostly been constructed on the fear of invasions coming from the East that hold Muslim identity since the first Islamic conquests on East and West Roman territories. This being the case, a fear of Islam is triggered after the refugee crisis stimulated by the Syrian civil war. Though there are many other determining factors in migrant policies, significant religio-centric refugee policies of the countries in Eastern Europe and the answer of why religion, culture, and the politics are too much interlocked lie in the historical and cultural ties of Europe.
Human beings have always been on the move since they existed. Though its form and purpose might change in due course, the mobility itself has been remaining as one of the most specific characteristics of human. With the rise of globalization; the feeling and action of migration to flee from conflicts, natural disasters, or economic problems in the search for better conditions increased. In today’s world, while globalization and migration continue to feed each other, states are seeking ways to cope up with growing numbers of newcomers. The reaction towards migrants and refugees became more and more systematic with the changing conditions of the world. Strengthening borders and levelling up the security measures have turned into a policy which is established for the sake of protecting the nation and the nation-state in one hand. And on the other hand, these measures are also taken to protect the national identity, which is composed of religion and culture as well as language and history. In the case of Europe, and specifically, Eastern Europe, these measures have clearly been seen during the last decade.
Though migration is not a new phenomenon for Europe, it has been more sweeping than ever before. Especially the year 2015 was a milestone in the aspect of migration policies. After the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, caused by the internal instability in Syria, millions of people replaced both within and beyond the country. Though the war in Syria had been going on for four years until then, the illegal immigration to Europe reached its peak in 2015. In October 2015, the monthly number of the refugees entering Europe, 218.394, was almost equivalent to the total that entered over the whole of 2014, and more than 50 per cent of these were Syrians. Europe has been one the most attractive destinations for both Syrians and other migrants fleeing from the East and the Middle East due to economic, political, and social problems.
During the wake of the crisis, there was a sharp contradiction within Europe. Eastern Europe has adopted a sharper political discourse in rejecting migrant-friendly policies. Though their style of the discourses differs from West to East, it is understood from the results of the elections throughout Europe that the perception towards migrants is more or less the same all around Europe. It is well seen in the public surveys that every other day people are getting more anxious about the migrants and their voting tendencies are shaped according to migration policies of the political parties. Throughout Europe, far-right parties who are strictly against Muslim migrants are becoming the parts of the governing coalitions.
In spite of the consensus of politicians and the approach of the citizens are generally very much similar in practice, the political discourse of the West and the East differs. This might be due to the integration process of the East resulting from the effects of the Cold War which left them more than 40 years back. While the West had already started focusing on the elements like democracy, respect of human rights, pluralism, non-discrimination, and tolerance, the East was putting up a fight for liberty. Therefore, it would not be easy for the Eastern countries of the EU, who became a member of the Union after the 2000s, to close this gap immediately in the first place. In spite of the fact that they all share some common historical or cultural links, the East had a lot to overcome in many aspects, from economy to ideology and from abstract values of pluralism to non-discrimination. As the political culture of Western Europe is more settled, while they prefer more abstract ways; Eastern Europe, who still needs years to interiorize the European norms, does not seem to hesitate to prefer a more direct and offending language.
It is known that history, religion, sectarian differences, geopolitical and geostrategic substances are interrelated among the factors that determine the political reflexes of the countries and historical legacy is a prominent element in constructing the identities of the nations. In the same way, the identity of the EU, specifically Eastern Europe, is mostly constructed on the historical links which include common identity and values. Being ruled by the Ottomans -whose identity is coded as Muslim- and having lived under a communist regime for decades made them attached to religion in most ways. Developing a religious resistance against a religious threat and attaching to religion after being kept far from religion during the Cold War had a traumatic effect on the perception of threat on the East. But it should be remembered that the more otherised the migrants are, the more radicalized they become in time. During the age of global migration, for the future safety of the communities, migration policies should be carried out from humanitarian and security perspectives; not according to the religious or ethnic backgrounds of the immigrants. Human rights, multiculturalism, respect to the differences are not just definitions written on the conventions; but the universal values of humanity to be inherited by future generations and adopted by successor governments.
Publication Date : June 30, 2020
|ISNAD||Karakoç Dora, Zühal . "Religio-Centric Migrant Policies of the Eastern Europe". Hitit Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi 19 / 1 (June 2020): 35-62 . https://doi.org/10.14395/hititilahiyat.705788|