The European Migrant Crisis was a problem that was bubbling below the surface for many years before it’s explosion in 2015. The rise of Radicalism and terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, increasing inequality, and extreme poverty are some of the factors that have pushed many refugees out of their native countries and towards the relative prosperity of Western Europe and the European Union.
Most notably, the war in Syria has pushed many of it’s citizens out of the country. However, amongst these genuine refugees, a large amount of economic migrants can be found. According to the vice-president of the European Commission, 60% of the ‘refugees’ arriving in Europe are actually Economic Migrants using asylum-seeker status as a cover. This finding is rather serious and threatens to derail, or already has, the system that is in place to help refugees and asylum seekers who need safety from war and death. How are we supposed to differentiate who is who from the multitude of individuals arriving in Europe at this moment in time?
Now, how have Economic Migrants been able to abuse this situation? I believe that there are various factors at play here. Most notably, Angela Merkel’s open door policy towards anybody wanting to come into her country, refugee or non-refugee, within the huge migrant influx, has led to more than 1.1 million individuals in search of asylum entering the country (according to official government data, as of January 2016). As mentioned beforehand, if around 60% of those seeking asylum-seeker status are actually economic migrants, how many have Germany taken in? *It is also important to note that a lot of these individuals have been able to reach Germany due to the European Union’s open-border Schengen area policy, without identification or security checks.
On the whole, it is fair to say that this situation could have been handled on a European Level , and on a National Level, a heck of a lot better than what it has been. The European Union leadership should have stepped in at the beginning of this crisis and turned back the boats that have been arriving on Greek, Italian, and Spanish shores for over 2 years now, instead of encouraging massive illegal immigration and giving an opportunity to economic migrants to abuse the entire situation. A policy such as Australia’s ‘stop the boat’ policy would have undoubtedly saved many lives ( According to the UN, more than 2,500 refugees have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea).
There is also the worry that ISIS has infiltrated the refugee influx. Christian refugees from Syria claim they saw a former Islamic State member living in Frankfurt, Germany (and this is not an isolated case.) Also, according to Rob Wainwright, the British Head of Europol, 3,000 to 5,000 ISIS-trained Jihadis could be at large in Europe after returning from the Middle East. Perhaps most worryingly, French authorities have said that one of the attackers involved in November’s Paris terrorist attacks came into France via the Greek Island of Leros, travelling amongst the refugees arriving in Europe. The reality of this situation is that we simply do not know how many terrorists are within the refugee population, and by leaving our borders open, EU leadership is putting the safety of Europeans at risk.
Most rational people in Western Europe want to help the genuine refugees who are fleeing war and terror in the Middle East, myself included. However, this needs to be done in a way that does not allow Economic Migrants to abuse the situation, and keeps the citizens of Europe safe. I believe the U.K. government’s reaction to the crisis, albeit not perfect, has been a more pragmatic response to the situation. Instead of encouraging illegal immigration and dangerous journeys to get to Europe, David Cameron’s government has taken people from refugee camps in Syria and has flown them directly to the UK, and plans to follow this procedure for roughly 20,000 people.
To conclude, this situation could have been dealt with in a better way if the nations in Southern Europe were not part of a ‘borderless’ union with other neighbouring nations, meaning that instead of merely being a transit point for refugees, these nations could have dealt with the crisis as it was developing, and sent a strong message to people smugglers. Co-operation with other nations is evidently necessary in these scenarios , but through the European Union that is trying to force nations to take in refugees through quotas? perhaps not.
*Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria all have closed parts of their borders to some extent due to the refugee crisis.
(Sources: Europol, the Telegraph, Russia Today, Quartz, BBC News, the UK government website, German government data, the Guardian, the United Nations)