Children from Afghanistan travelling along the now closed Western Balkans route after landing in Greece.

European leaders are at a crossroads.

They can either let fear erode the fundamental values they so often preach about yet practice less and less, or they can truly embody the principles the EU was founded on almost 60 years ago.

Over 160 NGOs demanded European leaders take the second option today (8 March) – including several members of the Destination Unknown campaign. They called on European governments’ to take inspiration from citizens across Europe welcoming refugees and migrants into their communities and donating money, time and resources to help them.

Rather than seek to protect people fleeing brutal wars, persecution, human rights violations, instability and extreme poverty, EU institutions have become preoccupied with stopping people reaching Europe and trying to quickly expel those who do.

The European Commission shockingly demonstrated this obsession only last week, when it recommended locking up child migrants while they or their parents wait to see if they have been granted asylum. Not only is forcibly detaining children never in the child’s best interests, it is in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – a set of laws protecting children that every EU nation has signed up to.

This amounts to a European institution actively promoting the violation of refugee children’s rights as a ‘solution’ to the refugee crisis.

By doing so, repeated EU claims that fundamental values such as human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights will be protected are nothing more than a sham – something the European Commission and Member States have no problem steamrolling over when it suits them.

Such barbarous treatment of refugees comes at a time when safe, legal routes to Europe are evaporating. Only yesterday (7 March) the European Court of Justice ruled that EU countries are not required to issue humanitarian visas to people entering the country to seek asylum – going against the advice of the court’s own advocate general.

But all is not lost. The ‘Let’s Bring Them Here‘ campaign inspired hundreds of people to bring their cars to Brussels on Monday (6 March) to act as ‘European Chauffeurs’ – offering to drive refugees stranded in Greece to other EU countries currently breaking their promise to take them in.

These ordinary citizens demonstrated the solidarity EU leaders have failed to muster when organising refugee relocations, and should serve as inspiration if EU leaders make decisions on their future at the European Summit later this week.

With the situation for all refugees –  and particularly children – getting worse, the EU needs to abandon its false flag speeches on European values and genuinely act in refugees’ best interests.

And that means breathing fresh life into the European values currently being neglected, and creating a Europe that we can be proud of once again.

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