Europe’s shortsighted migrant policy

The European Union has made pathetic attempts to “solve” the current migration status. It has sent ships to the Mediterranean. It has tried to get its member states to agree to take on more migrants so that Italy and Greece do not have to bear the burden of migrants who land there but wish to move on. It has also announced more patrols in the Mediterranean and perhaps even preventing the traffickers from taking off in Libya or elsewhere in the Middle East. All of these strategies will do little to actually stem the flow of migrants and even worse, do absolutely nothing for the well-being of those fleeing their home countries due to war, dictatorship, or extreme poverty.

The ongoing situation in Calais is an example of the inhumane and incoherent strategy in Europe. Thousands of migrants have now set up camp in Calais as they attempt to make it to the UK. They have tried entering trucks traveling to Britain, tried jumping on moving trains, walking through the tunnel at night, or even swimming across the channel. All the while, more and more migrants die in their attempts to cross the channel as France and Britain continue to blame each other, or call for European help. Thousands continue to live in the migrant camps around Calais, undeterred by recently increased security measures.

Tens of thousands of new migrants are arriving on the Greek islands, small and ill-equipped to deal with such high numbers. Many islands are just a couple miles off the coast of Turkey, making them the easiest way to reach land of an EU member state. Chaos recently erupted on the Island of Kos after authorities tried to register all the migrants in a local stadium. The number of migrants is simply too large for the local authorities to handle. The migrants have also staged protests, such as blocking main roads, to demand faster registration and food to eat.

The EU’s sad attempt to redistribute the migrants across all the member states is hardly a solution. There is of course the reality that most migrants have a destination in mind-be it Sweden or the UK- and are probably not going to do well in Slovakia or Latvia. Then of course there is the fact that many EU countries do not want the migrants at all, with some populations outright hostile. Protests and riots against refugees have been reported in Germany and Slovakia. Furthermore, the number of around 35,000 migrants to be relocated is still quite a small percentage of the overall number reaching Europe.

Over a hundred thousand have already entered Europe through the Mediterranean this year, another 50,000 have taken other routes. Where are they coming from?  The majority are coming from war-torn countries like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, or else fleeing dictatorships like the one in Eritrea. In fact, 38% of the total come from Syria and 12% from Afghanistan, even though politicians (especially in the UK) would have you believe they all of the migrants are from poorer countries in Africa. Most likely because it’s easier to dehumanize migrants who are fleeing poverty than migrants fleeting death or torture.

Adding to all of this, the EU’s naval mission to the Mediterranean has not stemmed the flow of migrants, who keep coming in higher numbers than before. This should not actually come as a surprise. Such a strategy will never work because the EU is not looking at the source of the problem, that is the issues these migrants are facing in their home countries. These problems (war, torture, ethnic cleansing), are already enough for people to empty their life savings to give to human traffickers and risk their lives on a the sea. This kind of desperation is not something that can just be put to a halt by an obstacle at the end of the road.

Criticizing or dehumanizing migrants for trying to reach Europe becomes much harder once you realize that many are coming because their home in Syria was blown up, because they were tortured in Eritrea, or because their life was threatened by the Islamic State in Iraq. Many are engineers or other highly qualified workers who have no chance of employment back home and just want to work and provide a safe environment for their children. These are not people who are seeking benefits or want to take advantage of a “generous” European welfare system.

Tackling this problem requires a long-term and clear strategy and coordination among Europe, as well as other countries across the world. It is a humanity issue, not an issue about refugees receiving some £36 a week. Thousands have died in the Mediterranean already. Thousands more are living in tents in European capitals, waiting for any kind of hope of a better life. While the EU wants nothing to do with these wars in the Middle East and implicitly supports dictatorships, it also doesn’t want the affects that these policies bring – namely people seeking refuge in safe countries elsewhere in the world.

There is also the fact that the EU does not know what it really means to be inundated with migrants. Lebanon hosts over a million of them, despite being a country of just 4 million. Turkey itself, with a population somewhere between that of France and Germany, now has over 1.5 million Syrian refugees, a number unimaginable in these large European countries. Many areas in Europe are up in arms over a couple thousand or a couple hundred migrants that have made it to their local region. The EU, nearly covering a continent and with a population of half a billion, can handle the number of migrants reaching its shores.

People who are desperate will always find a way. The EU can keep trying its small short-term solutions but until the issues in these countries are solved, migrants will keep coming to European shores seeking refuge.

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