Europe has experienced an increasing influx of people since 2014, most of them migrants and refugees from conflict-affected areas like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. However, this has also seen an entry to Europe for a lot of people who do not qualify for political asylum with people who in fact do.
In line with the increase in mass movement of people, there has also been an increase of hostility and a cry of overpopulation in some of the countries in Europe. Moreover, there have also been increases in hate crimes with terrorist attacks, which has again been linked to incoming migrants. This mass migration has also opened avenues for smuggling humans into Europe via illegal channels. Thousands of people have already died en route, mainly by drowning in the Mediterranean. In September 2015, the body of a three-year old Syrian boy washed up dead on a beach in Turkey which garnered attention from around the world to an important issue: the refugee crisis.
Initially, a lot of people welcomed the refugees in many of the major EU cities such as Madrid, Milan, Athens, and Berlin. To demonstrate, they hung banners and messages welcoming refugees at various landmarks. However, with time, this changed into hate and fear and gave rise to other expressions of racism and xenophobia. Some people never wanted refugees in the first place because they were not open to the idea of sharing their land and resources with them. Racism spread after major attacks in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Nice, Istanbul, and recently in Barcelona, which were all claimed by the Islamic State (IS). It is believed that the perpetrators of these attacks were people who initially entered as refugees. Meanwhile, the attacks on IS bases in Syria and Iraq were intensified by coalition forces (USA, Russia, France, Italy and others). These strikes were successful in the sense that they reduced the power of IS considerably and most of the IS-controlled areas in Iraq and Syria have been recaptured, including vital cities such as Mosul and Raqqa. The adverse impact of this, however, is that more instability has been caused due to the air strikes and ground troop infiltration that lead to internal displacements, as well as more people fleeing to Europe. It has also increased the trafficking of women to be sold to prostitution cartels in Jordan, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf. Some women, even those who are underage, have to take up ‘survival sex’ as it is their only way of making it out alive.
The route from Libya to Italy was not in use after the supposed ‘deal’ between Gaddafi and Berlusconi in 2008. Any refugee ships suspected to be docking in Europe would be stopped or even shot at without any investigation. This route only resumed popularity after the assassination of Gaddafi in 2011. In 2015, a shooting incident killed about 700 immigrants when a ship was shot, suspected to have been conducted by the Italian mafia. They apparently control the routes of illicit migration and indulge in their own profitable smuggling of people.
Other measures had also been taken, like the Turkey-EU deal in March 2016. The refugees would be inspected upon arrival and would be sent back to Turkey in case of any suspicion. In case of these refugees being sent back, the EU would provide a home to them along with increasing grants up to €6 billion. According to the law in the EU, a country can be safe only if it can guarantee no individual can be prosecuted on account of nationality, religion, race, political opinion, or being a member of a particular social group. This brings into question if Turkey can be considered a safe country, where 17,740 people were arrested for voicing opinions against the government. This puts into doubt the entire practice of sending back refugees to Turkey.
The EU developed its first asylum policy in 1999 but the rules in place are today not sufficient to control mass migration. This reflects on how the EU was never prepared for a large-scale migration like Syria. After dealing with the huge inflow of asylum seekers, the European Union has reformed its immigration policies and refugee laws. While the basic fundamental foundation remains the same, the immigration policies have become stricter to combat abuse. The new laws have altered the reception of asylum seekers and it is now uniform and harmonized throughout the EU. Earlier, migration to countries like Greece and Italy was significantly easier than migrating to, say, Germany or Switzerland. Now, the EU has set up offices at every border which looks into the entry of asylum seekers with each EU country, following the same sets of rules.
A large number of people have entered Europe in the last two years with a desperate need of an asylum. These vulnerable people require international protection and the EU is in the moral and legal position to do provide it. The member nations need to examine applications and decide who needs protection. However, not all individuals that dock in Europe may require real protection since some of them enter Europe merely as ‘economic migrants’ with the agenda of improving their lives as resources and opportunities available in Europe are far greater than in their country of origin. This may lead to a draining of EU resources on the one hand and adversely impact the job opportunities for the native Europeans on the other, especially in countries such as Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain. In the Schengen area, since people are allowed to roam freely within the borders, this has put domestic security at further risk. For example, the perpetrators that were involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks had entered the continent as illegal immigrants through Turkey and Greece. This poses a huge threat not only to regional national security ensured by the European Union but also to the peace of mind of all local peoples.
Therefore, it can be said that there is an abundance of obstacles in the path to neutralize this crisis by the European Union and other concerned parties. However, these obstacles can be overcome by taking the correct steps gradually. Channeling funding by the EU and Germany for the support of the refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Greece is definitely major action. However, this does not solve the real problem. There have been indications finding a solution for the refugee problem in a way which seems suitable for both refugees and state authorities. Although this may take some time to develop and implement, with the right amount of efforts and mutual understanding, this goal will be met in due course provided all major parties agree to find an amicable solution that places peace and human rights and welfare above all else.