It’s been reported that in 2014 a total of 600 thousand refugees applied for asylum in the EU, which constitutes a total of 0.1% of the European population. In 2015, those petitions were signed by a total of 1.294 million people, which means that the number of those seeking refugee has doubled in just a year, while the number of unprocessed applications for asylum in Germany alone exceeded half a million forms, notes the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
The number of refugees that arrived to Europe in 2015 has exceeded the mark of 1 million people, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM). At the same time the European border agency – Frontex refused to provide any estimates on the number of refugees that haven’t been registered with European border guards.
The European Commission believes that the total number of refugees that would arrive to Europe in 2016 may reach the staggering number of 3 million, which basically means that the EU faced the gravest migration crisis since the days of the Second World War. The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has already announced that there’s a chance that the Schengen Visa agreement may not survive the crisis.
Experts of the The Berlin Institute for Population and Development Foundation have recently come to the conclusion that “in the coming years the number of migrants from the states of North Africa and the Middle East will continue to grow”, notes the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger. In addition to the lack of economic prospects, social and political instability and the huge gap in wealth between the countries of these regions and Europe, environmental problems will only aggravate the migrant crisis. In particular, it is already been noted that in numerous North African and Middle Eastern states, with the exception of Iran and Iraq, there’s only one thousand cubic meters of drinking water per inhabitant left. Moreover, in certain states no more than 20% of lands are suitable for agriculture. It is also believed that the climate change will aggravate the shortage of drinking water and food.
Most refugees reach Europe by sea, but some are taking the land route through Turkey and Albania, and even winter won’t stop the flow of people.
The fact that Turkish criminal groups have been taking advantage of illegal migration has already been reported by alternative media sources, but now criminal elements from other states are getting engaged in the same illegal business, while those from Egypt have been particularly active. The Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger would report that small boats are taking refugees aboard near Alexandria to smuggle them to much larger vessels that are heading to Europe. Africans and Syrians are often capable to pay good money for the trip. It’s been noted that the transportation of a family with two children would cost 10 thousand dollars. The average price of a boat without any motor and equipment may reach 80 thousand dollars, so it’s no wonder that new boats are being constructed en masse.
According to the statistics of official European institutions, migrants are primilarly fleeing the armed conflict in Syria which forces an ever increasing number of refugees to take a long and dangerous trip, but the continuing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, general conscription in Eritrea and the bitter poverty in Central African and Southeast Asian states have also been contributing to the flow of people that decided pack up and leave to seek a better life somewhere else.
Migration is often associated with numerous risks for those who seek refuge. Thus, about 6.5 thousand migrants from Libya have been rescued in the Mediterranean sea by the Italian Coast guards on August 29. Yet, on April 14 about 400 illegal migrants died in the Mediterranean sea on a smuggler ship that sunk, said the non-governmental organization Save the Children that based its report on the testimonies of those rescued by the Italian warship Orion.
The number of missing children-refugees in Germany alone has doubled since the beginning of 2016 and reached 9000 children, notes the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. In pretty much every European country refugees launch protest marches against the conditions in which they are being detained. One of the last of such demonstrations was carried out in Latvia in early August, as it’s been reported by the Latvian channel TV3 Ziņas.
The EU policy towards migrants has been an apple of discord for European politicians. The current “hospitality policy” that is being pursued by Angela Merkel has made her an enemy of many Czechs, says the German Die Welt. Even Merkel’s party members reject the policies pursued by their leader, as it was shown last July by the Prime Minister of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer. As for the Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Zёder, he went a step further, urging to deport hundreds of thousands of refugees in the next three years, forcing them to go back to the Middle East, reports Deutsche Welle. A former German senior politician Thilo Sarrazin demanded to radically change the legal status of refugees in his article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine, urging “to deport them under military escort, if necessary, “
The head of the Ministry of Defence of Austria, Hans-Peter Doskotsil called the policies pursued by the German Chancellor Angela Merke “irresponsible”, noting that Austria is not Berlin’s “waiting room”. It’s noteworthy, that in March the EU has concluded an agreement with Turkey on the transfer of refugees, now Angela Merkel is looking foroptions to sign similar agreements with the countries of North Africa.
This autumn the EU must undergo a sharp debate on several issues related to the distribution of refugees within the union. First of all, the so-called Dublin rules that determine which state is responsible for the refugees arriving to the EU are to be reviewed. As of now, the responsibility lies on the first state which border was crossed by a migrant. It is because of this notion that the exodus of migrants from Syria, Libya and the Balkans is affecting Italy, Greece, Hungary the most. To eliminate this disproportionate burden the European Commission proposes to revise the mechanism of destribution of refugees, while strating to force other European countries to host refugees. For this purpose it is planned to standardize and speed up the procedure for checking applications for refugee status, and put in place a quota mechanism, if necessary. As motivators Brussels is planning to use the whip (the penalties for refusing to accept refugees), and carrots (the increase in the financial assistance allocated for each refugee hosted).
Different strategies are to be discussed yet, but in any case for “inhospitable countries” any decision made on the EU level will mean a forced increase in the influx of refugees.
However, it is not clear when and in what form these changes may be implemented. Political debates promise to be heated and complicated. The continuous opposition of such states like Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia along with the Baltic states to the notion that all EU countries must accommodate refugees will present a major challenge. West European countries that have traditionally been adhering to more liberal views may also be a source of troubles for European bureaucrats too. The approaching French presidential election along with forthecoming parliamentary elections in Germany forces the political elites of those states to show more solidarity with common people, and thus tightening their approach towards migration policies.
So this autumn promises to be very hot, not only for refugees but also for the EU, where an attempt to find a solution for the migration crisis may result in the severe aggravation of the political situation.