Will EU leaders institute quotas?
In early August, Europe’s migrant crisis was thrown into full relief when the French port city of Calais became overrun by migrants hoping to cross the English Channel into the United Kingdom. Thousands of migrants, coming mostly from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan, crowded the port, and things quickly became dangerous.
Statistically, it is easier to remain in the UK as a refugee than it is to remain in France under the same status. Migrants from non-EU countries who stay in places like France still have access to benefits and services, but run a much higher risk of being denied permanent asylum.
Some countries, like Hungary, have taken a hard line approach to controlling how many migrants they allow within their borders. Western Eurozone leaders recently lashed out at Hungary over its continuing work to erect a fence along its southern border with Serbia, even over the demands of the Hungarian people that something—anything—be done to control the influx. Greece is having a similar problem; the flow of migrants into the already-struggling country has increased by 750% over last year’s count.
Last week’s discovery of a literal truck full of dead bodies has thrown the crisis into an even bigger spotlight, prompting the most powerful Eurozone officials to speak out against countries seeking to bar entry to refugees. 71 migrants were discovered dead in the back of an abandoned truck on a motorway between Budapest and Vienna. Authorities believe those found dead had paid a smuggler to help them make the journey into Austria, whose system for granting asylum is more pliable. Hungary, by contrast, hardly ever grants asylum—or at least, doesn’t grant asylum at a rate high enough to tempt migrants to take their chances with Budapest.
Under the rules that govern how Europe handles new arrivals, known as the Dublin Regulation, migrants can be sent back to the first E.U. nation they entered. Because its reception facilities are so bad, the rule does not apply to Greece. And some nations, including Sweden and Germany, have said they will waive the rules for Syrians.
There isn’t a uniform benefits system, either, with nations such as Hungary offering little compared with Germany and Sweden. Acceptance rates also vary dramatically. Hungary, for instance, is granting asylum to only a fraction of 1 percent of applicants, according to UNHCR. Germany, meanwhile, has a nearly 40 percent acceptance rate — and almost 90 percent for Syrians.
European nations have failed to agree on policies — such as a refugee quota for each E.U. country — that might make it easier to grant safe passage and resettlement rights to legitimate asylum-seekers while weeding out economic migrants.
Interior ministers from all 28 EU states will meet in Luxembourg on September 14 to address the current crisis. In the mean time, the debate will continue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on other EU nations to do more to assist those seeking refuge; meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius lashed out at eastern states for taking harsher measures against the flow of migrants.
Some officials, however, see the borderless nature of the EU as having contributed to the problem:
British interior minister Theresa May blamed Europe’s borderless system, known as “Schengen”, for fuelling the crisis and demanded tighter EU rules on free movement.
“When it was first enshrined, free movement meant the freedom to move to a job, not the freedom to cross borders to look for work or claim benefits,” May said. “We must take some big decisions, face down powerful interests and reinstate the original principle.”
Some European governments are considering amending the Schengen code, but the European Commission, the EU executive which enforces it, says there is no need to change the rules, either to improve security or control migration.
In Italy which as the entry point for many migrants has been at the forefront of the crisis, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the rising death toll would push EU states to confront the problem.
“It will take months, but we will have a single European policy on asylum, not as many policies as there are countries,” he said.
Both Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are expected to propose a series of new universal regulations, including the construction of new processing centers and the institution of quotas for all EU member states. They have, however, floated the idea of creating a list of “safe countries”; those seeking asylum from those countries would be automatically turned away.
Germany has threatened to reintroduce controls at their own borders if other countries don’t fall in line with plans along the lines of those floated by Merkel and Hollande. We’ll keep you updated on the situation as it progresses.DONATE
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