Monday, December 17, 2018
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The people who come to Europe seeking refuge

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Xavier Puigdollers Noblom. Professor of Civil Law at the UAO

In recent months, there have been systematic press reports on the deaths in the Mediterranean, the wrecks of boats, hundreds of people who struggle to enter Europe, the fences that have been put up to keep out people, and of government meetings to find solutions. Initially astounding news, it has now become a permanent harsh reality. Death and shame roam Europe.

The terms asylum seekers, displaced people, migrants, refugees, while still technical terms, have become familiar.

Surprised and astonished, we contemplate a situation that seems strange, distant and alien to our reality, but the fact is that it is closer to what we appreciate and is more dramatic and fearful than what we think. We have forgotten the concepts of people and dignity; rights and respect.

We see pictures of faces of suffering and retain the image of the child Aylan Kurdi, dead on the beach, which reminds us of the running girl Kim Phuc, half a century ago, fleeing the napalm. Time has changed, the landscape too, but the horror of war is the same and the suffering it causes continues. On the contrary, it grows and threatens to become endemic and destroy modern civilization.

The reality of war has accompanied humankind since ancient times. There are various causes of the violence. They might be personal or social, individual or community, but the use of force, the desire to annihilate the enemy, to seize their property or destroy their villages, crops, and livestock and, if necessary, to maul, kill or enslave the vanquished was customary. Violence and destruction in ancient times. Violence and destruction today.

From the same places that now contain the main causes of conflict, the rules governing wars and recommending or prohibiting unnecessary violence originated, which also prescribed respect for the women, children and elderly. From the ancient Persia, Babylon, Egypt, Syria and Palestine, lands stained with blood, came the rules that remained in history as the origin of respect for those who were not involved in combat. The rights of people have not been put to one side in times of war, and gone adapting to new realities to protect, if possible, the people that suffer in these places. There remains the question of compliance with those laws.

Force and destruction continue to prevail


It seems that little has changed in our times. Force and destruction continues to prevail in those lands, forgetting and ignoring the achievements of law throughout history. How far and how close are the Declarations of Rights of Citizens of 1789 and the Virginia Declaration of 1776, in which the freedom of the individual and the rights were proclaimed to equality, to work, to housing, to privacy and to a decent life. In the last seventy years, a number of international declarations and treaties in defence of the rights of individuals have proclaimed. We can cite as examples the Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the Geneva

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