By Keith Barnes
The European Union has been embroiled in the midst of an immigration crisis for several years now. Recently, the numbers of migrants coming into the Schengen area has reached severe new heights with Europe’s largest economy, Germany, expecting 800,000 asylum applications for 2015. Yet the question in most observers’ minds is “What are they doing about it?” or better yet “What are they going to do about it?”
In June of 2015, in response to the growing number of migrant camps in and around Italy and Greece, the EU proposed a mandatory quota system for the relocation of 40,000 people. This plan was rejected by member states. Currently, it is up to the member state to decide how many migrants will be taken from this pool of 40,000, while new applications are coming in every day. With the recent influxes of migrants streaming through the Serbo-Hungarian border, the number in that voluntary pool is now 120,000. This followed another rejection by EU member states for a more ambitious plan of resettlement for 160,000 migrants with a mandatory quota system. That plan would have seen around 30,000 migrants resettling in Germany with a further 25,000 in France, to give a few examples.
More recently there have been several varying responses by member states, some of which may be setting a disastrous precedent. Germany, who has Europe’s most ambitious acceptance projections in terms of incoming migrants, has now suspended the Dublin Agreement and reinstated border controls along the Austro-German border. The Dublin Agreement is a standard set between signatories that requires EU member states to fingerprint and settle migrants in their nation of first arrival. The border crossing reinstatement has set off a chain reaction, as border controls have been put in place along the Danish-German, Franco-Italian, Austro-Hungarian, and the previously mentioned Serbo-Hungarian borders. While the Schengen Agreement allows passport-free travel within the EU, it does allow for the temporary reinstatement of borders in times of exceptional circumstance. However, this situation sets something of a precedent for future matters.
Aside from re-instituting borders, the other main actions for tackling the crisis range from nation to nation due to their domestic political climates. Some are far more bizarre than others. The United Kingdom has, for example, stated that they will take in 20,000 migrants, but only from camps in Jordan and Lebanon and their program will be over 5 years. Germany, along with France, would like to see a common European asylum application process and reception centers in peripheral countries with EU funding. Hungary, meanwhile, has passed a series of laws to create a razor wire fence and make it illegal to cross or damage it. Almost all countries that have experienced influxes of migrants have grossly cut their aid to said individuals in order to dissuade others from attempting the journey.
This current crisis should open our eyes to a larger issue. According to a piece in Le Monde that cited UNHCR, in 2010, while in the midst of a financial crisis, the world already had a little over 30 million refugees. By the end of 2014, a mere four years later, that number exploded to a monstrous 53 million. As Diplomacy students here at Seton Hall, this should be a matter that we all make a point to concern ourselves with. Something needs to be done.