One image from Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria – originally created to house Palestinian refugees – brings home the scale of the refugee crisis.

Masses of refugees wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2015 in Damascus, Syria. Picture: UN Relief and Works Agency

Masses of refugees wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2015 in Damascus, Syria. Picture: UN Relief and Works Agency

Look at the photo. Enlarge it. See it in the full screen version. A river of people. Men, women, children, old, young, exhausted and absolutely terrified. It resembles a painting of the apocalypse Pieter Bruegel could have painted in the 1500s.

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel. Bruegel was famous for his bleak, apocalyptic visions.

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel. Bruegel was famous for his bleak, apocalyptic visions.

But now it is not a painting, it’s reality. That is the reality of the Mediterranean today, 500 years after Bruegel lived. It is a reality that makes its way closer to us. There are millions of people on the run from barbarism, wars and horrors. There is a mass stream of people seeking refuge which is the biggest in scope since World War II.

Politically, it will be more significant than we think. New influences, new habits, new cultural influences, more labour to a continent that ultimately lacks manpower.
The political map will also change for the large refugee flows will inevitably make it necessary to abandon the non-inflationary economy that we have suffered over the last 20-30 years. It becomes necessary to fuel the economies and drop the infantile austerity policy.

It becomes necessary to fuel the economies and thus growth will accelerate. At the same time, we see the imperialist policies as the US and other countries account for collapse. The oil price in human life is already too high, the power politics of the Middle East must be abandoned and it will emerge out of the chaos that is right now.

However, there are significant risks to the deepening of divisions within Europe, where fascist governments could end up in direct conflict with democracies. But the risk is less than it may appear.

There is hope, which has been manifested in several countries across Europe in recent days, as people have reached out to help and welcome refugees.

As the well known Swedish social democrat journalist Göran Greider wrote yesterday in his Metro column, a new empathy is growing: “That so many people in Europe in the last week demonstrated their solidarity with the refugees may be the most significant development in decades.”


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Ingemar Göransson

Ingemar is a writer, journalist and trade unionist. He lives in Sweden.

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