Can European migrant crisis be resolved?

Vladimir Odintsov | Published: 00:00, Jan 20,2020


— New Eastern Outlook

SINCE 2015, the flow of refugees escaping unending wars in the Middle East and Africa, which the United States and European nations are engaged in, into Europe has continued. The situation has transformed into a real crisis and resulted in increased social tensions in many of the EU member states.

France is facing quite a tough time since, in 2019, the number of asylum applications filed there even surpassed that recorded in Germany. Despite efforts made by the French government to house asylum seekers in migrant welcome centres, makeshift refugee camps for illegals keep appearing throughout the nation. These immigrants have expressed their intention to remain in France for good, and, at this point, their numbers are so high that the French government has been unable to provide the necessary infrastructure for them.

On January 6, French police officers shot a man armed with a knife for attacking passers-by while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in the city of Metz (situated in the north-east of the nation on its border with Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium). It was the second knife attack in the country for the recently started month of January. On January 3, a similar incident occurred in Villejuif, on the outskirts of Paris, where a man with a knife also began attacking those passing by. As a result of the rampage, three people were killed and one was wounded.

Attacks on pedestrians are becoming commonplace, which is a cause for concern for Thibault de Montbrial, the president of the Reflection Centre for Home Security. He has noted that only one third of refugees involved in criminal activities are then deported from France.

In such a climate, Emmanuel Macron has said that France cannot grant everyone asylum during a National Assembly session on security and migration.

Germany seems to be facing similar problems, which has forced Horst Seehofer, the Minister of the Interior, Building and Community, to make gloomy predictions about the nearest future. Most residents of Germany do not support Angela Merkel’s immigration policies and view them as lax and messy. Germans are feeling affected by rising tensions stemming from increased crime rates.

According to Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, there has been a rise in the incidence of attacks on locals at Germany’s train stations resulting in fatalities. And several people have been pushed onto the rails. Such incidents prompt fierce debates about immigration and risk yet another upsurge in racism in the nation. Information that the number of serious crimes committed by refugees has not decreased in recent years, leaked from the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany to national media outlets, only serves to fuel tensions in German society.

As the flow of those escaping famine, wars and poverty, continues, the situation in Greece has become almost critical. Lack of space in Greek refugee camps resulted in rioting, which, in turn, led to casualties, including among women and children. In response to such incidents, the Greek government plans to take a number of measures to ease the current situation that include tightening border security and closing five refugee camps on the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesbos due to overcrowding. New centers to replace these facilities will be opened on the islands of Leros and Kos. Each will be able to house up to 5,000 people.

Austria: In an interview with Bild, Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz stated that his nation would no longer welcome refugees from the island of Lesbos because, in his opinion, a small nation such as Austria had already done its fair share for migrants. ‘Austria has made a disproportionately large contribution in recent years. There were over 150,000 asylum applications in our country, far too many in my opinion for small Austria’, pointed out the Chancellor. Sebastian Kurz also added that, in the upcoming decades, Austria would work on deporting applicants who had received a negative asylum decision and were still illegally residing within its borders out of the country, and on integrating those whose applications had been approved.

A number of Eastern European nations (including Hungary, Poland and the Czech republic) have refused to follow common EU policies on migration. They have instead chosen to decide (on their own) to erect barriers and determine whom they let into their countries. Such actions run counter to decisions reached by the European Union on evenly distributing refugees among its nations and raise the burden on Italy and Greece, which are experiencing great hardships at it is. All of this creates serious obstacles to the implementation of the Common European Asylum System, and increases disagreements among EU member states.

Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet has reported that immigration was changing Sweden to its very core. Demographics and not economics is the key reason why more and more of the electorates in Sweden and the rest of the Western world are voting for parties that wish to radically reduce the flow of refugees. Stubborn opposition against migration exhibited by the silent majority of the Western world, whose views governments fail to listen to, is simply a consequence of the lack of understanding between the leadership and the people. Based on research conducted in Sweden, two to four million Swedish krona is spent on each immigrant over their entire lifetime, and welcoming refugees costs the country 50 billion krona per year, which accounts for approximately 1 per cent of the nation’s GDP. As a result, according to the newspaper, the country has seen an increase in beggars, migrants with little to do and crime rates.

In response to a sharp rise in violence in Sweden, its prime minister Stefan Löfven was compelled to state that the nation had not been successful in dealing with the migration because of the level of segregation in its society. He also admitted that extensive immigration over a short period of time made integration of newcomers difficult and resulted in the creation of a disadvantaged community among the population.

EU nations are trying to introduce new initiatives to resolve the migration crisis. For instance, Sweden launched an unusual integration project, called SällBo, meant to alleviate loneliness felt by its elderly population and to speed up the assimilation of newly arrived foreigners into the society at the same time. In order to achieve these goals, migrants started to be housed with the elderly.  For now, it is a two-year initiative, and based on its outcomes, local authorities will then decide whether to continue with the project or not.

National Review has also written about the issues caused by the flow of migrants into Europe. The magazine has reported that the situation in the EU is so serious that Europeans now face the following key question ‘Do they have a future or not?’ Still, National Review has also stated that the current demographic pressures will seem insignificant in comparison to those faced by Europe when the flow of migrants from the nations south of the Sahara Desert starts in the nearest decades. So what will happen in the next 30 years once the population of Africa doubles to 2 billion? In answer, the magazine forecasts, based on its numerical predictions, that the number of Europeans of African descent could reach 150 million by the middle of this century.

In a recent interview, new German ambassador to Greece Ernst Reichel pointed out that resettlement of refugees and forced migrants remained a controversial issue in the EU. He added that Germany continued to support refugees but, unfortunately, it has been unsuccessful in its endeavors. The Ambassador also said that it was probably futile to hope for complete agreement and understanding among all the EU member states with regards to a common system for resettling immigrants. In his opinion, what Europeans could do today was create an alliance among EU nations whose aim would be to work out the resettlement program that would at least operate within their own borders. In conclusion, Ernst Reichel said that Germany supported the establishment of a bloc of nations within the EU that would be responsible for resettling refugees.


New Eastern Outlook, January 19. Vladimir Odintsov is a politologist.

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