Far-right dominates European Parliament, Refugees at risk

European Parliament building where the far-right began imposing its control – June 2024 (AFP)

European Parliament building where the far-right began imposing its control – June 2024 (AFP)


Enab Baladi – Yamen Moghrabi

Far-right parties have achieved significant gains in the recent European Parliament elections, which began on June 7th and ended on the 9th, amidst the rise of populist rhetoric in EU countries and the crises the latter is facing concerning migration, economy, and security, resulting from Middle Eastern crises and the Russian-Ukrainian war.

As an immediate result of the elections, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on June 9th the dissolution of the National Assembly and the holding of early elections at the end of this month, amid fears of the far-right French reaching control of the parliament in the country, which may also be repeated in other EU nations.

The election results and their repercussions have a direct impact on the Syrian issue in two aspects: political and human rights-related. The first relates to the European countries’ relations with the Syrian regime and the possibility of increased openness towards it, while the second concerns Syrian refugees, whether those who recently arrived in Europe and have not yet obtained asylum or those already desirous of migration.

Europe and the regime, Decision lies in Washington

The head of the Syrian regime arrived in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah in May 2023, to take Syria’s seat again in the Arab League meetings, a direct announcement of some Arab decision-makers’ rapprochement with the Syrian regime.

Since then, Arab countries have not achieved major breakthroughs in relations with Bashar al-Assad, amid a declared American opposition that the EU follows to date. This was confirmed by the US State Department official for the Syrian file, Ethan Goldrich, and the Head of the Middle East Section in the EU, Alessio Cappellani, during meetings with the Syrian Negotiation Commission on June 12th.

However, the situation may change with far-right parties arriving in the European Parliament and subsequently in local parliaments of the EU countries, especially since figures from these parties have previously expressed their readiness to deal with al-Assad or talked about pro-Russian stances and alignment with al-Assad particularly on the migration issue, which will reflect on the Syrian file.

Rami Khalifa, Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Paris, told Enab Baladi that the far-right wave is not confined to one European country but almost covers the entire European continent. It has reached power in Italy and Austria and is making progress in Germany and France, with the latest results being the embodiment of this phenomenon growing over the past two decades.

He added that European countries are committed to the US foreign policy line. Therefore, if the American administration decides it is time to normalize relations with the regime, European countries will do so, as Washington sets the pattern of relations with the Syrian regime for the region and Europe.

Despite the recent Arab rapprochement, which appears to have achieved little breakthroughs while the regime has not delivered on demands stipulated in the “Arab Initiative” at least ostensibly, the European far-right may adopt a similar approach to the Arabs. According to Khalifa, the matter is linked to the regime committing to a set of general policies for the West, including combating drug trafficking and contributing to solving the refugee crisis.

He added that al-Assad’s relationship with Israel might play a role, with the decrease in harsh criticism of Israeli military operations in Gaza. Still, there is currently no public American decision to rehabilitate the Syrian regime as it is considered to be of very limited benefit by his view.

A report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on June 4th stated that political parties exploit national issues and the anger towards current officials in national governments to obtain votes.

Restrictions on migration, Refugees’ options

While the political impacts related to the European Parliament election results emerge, there are effects on Syrian refugees in European countries as well.

The European Parliament is the second-largest electoral democracy in the world, behind the Indian Parliament, and the first voting process began in 1979.

The main headquarters of the parliament is in Strasbourg, France (eastern France near the German border), and it also has administrative offices in Luxembourg, with committee meetings held in Brussels, Belgium.

Practically, the European Parliament has a significant presence in three areas: the first is linked to the commission that leads the priorities of European policy such as defense, law, democratic degradation, and migration policy.

The other two areas are related to the budget, the enactment of laws, treaty reform, and reviewing charters. Based on the parliament’s connections, the impact of its elections on refugees and migration can be understood.

Lawyer al-Mutassim al-Kilani told Enab Baladi that the far-right’s victory in the European Parliament elections will have significant effects on asylum and migration policies in EU countries, considering that their primary programs involve tightening immigration.

The France-based lawyer explained that these effects could include pushing the far-right towards stricter asylum and migration policies, such as reducing the number of accepted refugees and migrants by imposing lower quotas or even suspending the acceptance of refugees, strengthening border security measures to prevent the entry of illegal refugees and migrants, and renegotiating or withdrawing from international agreements regulating refugee rights, in his opinion.

Far-right parties may also push to resettle refugees already in Europe to countries outside the EU.

They might seek to reduce funding allocated for refugee programs and humanitarian aid, both within the EU countries and conflict areas.

All these moves will have their impacts on refugees fleeing conflict zones, including increased tensions between local communities and refugees and migrants and a rise in racial incidents and violence.

Syria has the largest share among the number of refugees worldwide, alongside Afghanistan, with 6.4 million persons each, equivalent to one-third of the global total number of refugees (43.4 million persons, including 31.6 million in refugee-like situations and 5.8 million persons needing international protection), according to the latest report published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on June 13th.

Al-Kilani believes refugees should raise their awareness of their legal rights and benefit from free or low-cost services provided by non-governmental organizations in this regard and integrate into the local community to improve relations and gain public support.

The most significant role lies with civil society human rights organizations in EU countries, according to al-Kilani, which should intensify advocacy and pressure efforts on governments and national and European parliaments to uphold refugees’ and migrants’ rights.

This could include media campaigns, meetings with officials, organizing demonstrations, and utilizing legal tools and litigation before national and European courts to challenge decisions and policies that violate refugees’ rights after monitoring and documenting violations, in his opinion.

EU countries received over 1.1 million asylum applications in 2023, the highest in 7 years, according to the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA).


النسخة العربية من المقال

Propaganda distorts the truth and prolongs the war..

Syria needs free media.. We need your support to stay independent..

Support Enab Baladi..

$1 a month makes a difference..

Click here to support