Politics & The World

by Arne Langlet

As it becomes ever more apparent that the current handlings of the crisis is unsustainable, policy makers are by now finally agreeing that is it the so called “root-causes” of the crisis that be tackled to in order to control and stop the flow. If the EU wants to succeed in fighting the current crisis, it has to implement changes now. Both, the creation of better legal entrance possibilities for refugees, as well as a the introduction of “European value codex” would be crucial steps on this way.

Violent incidents in refugee camps have started to occur more regularly, with reports of refugees discriminating, threatening and fighting other ethnic or religious groups increasing. How is it surprising that a bunch of men in their twenties, crowded together without chance to work, without clear legal status bored to death after a journey where they had to bite their way through, become violent?

In these situations, religion is a strong tool to regain dignity, and thus it is no wonder that it plays an important role in many of the incidents. Yet, Europe must make clear that no kinds of violence – especially along ethnic, sexual or religious lines – can be accepted.

Although the ratio of violent incidents may be very small, it managed to create a real feeling of fear among many European communities – and this fear, even if mostly unfounded, must be taken seriously. Not least because these emotions have increasingly bigger political effects.

If one wants to ease the public tensions with regards to refugees, declaring such fears as “ridiculous” does not help, but merely pushes those people into the arms of populists to claim to care. Instead, those fears have to be met in a constructive and comprehensible way.

The Syrian war has been going on since 2011. For four years relatively few refugees arrived, while most stayed in refugee camps around Syria, where each year the food was becoming scarce while the hygiene worsened. This shows that the act of traveling clandestinely from camps in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey to central Europe is certainly not a comfortable and easy decision for most, but rather a last resort. It is taken only once the hope of a return to their homelands is destroyed.

As the journey is expensive and dangerous (also due to corrupt politicians on the Balkan), it also applies a clear Darwinian selection. Syrians without financial resources are almost sure not to get anywhere. Furthermore, 69 per cent of all arriving refugees are young men.The trip requires physical and emotional strength, it might include running for hours and resisting physically against police or other refugees. And here lies the big problem.

These men in their twenties learnt that you can only reach the destination illegally and if you have the money, the physical strength and possibly the ruthlessness to make the dangerous trip.

Hence, one of the first necessary changes would be to cut the element of the illegal journey, and to allow refugees to apply for asylum directly in their home country or in the refugee camps in the surrounding countries. With this measure, the EU could gain control again, and implement proper registration (ideally determining destination countries beforehand, according to a fair allocation key – but that’s a different discussion).

The EU is aiming at a similar direction by installing so called Hot-Spots, however only inside or directly at the EU’s borders. Yet, these spots would have to be as close as possible to Syria, to have the best effect.

Also the business of human-smugglers could be destroyed with this. Even though the proposed system would not give all applicants the immediate chance to enter the EU, it would foster the hope that doing so will be possible not only legally and cheaper, but also together with the whole family. This would ease the pressure of the flow and avoid new mass departures. Would you rather risk everyone’s live and all your savings now, or wait another few months or even a year to get to Europe legally? In the end, this would also buy Europe time to solve the real root causes!

Secondly, refugees could be obliged to sign a “codex” upon entering the EU, binding them to European basic values. It might be naive to assume that everybody would strictly adhere to the principles, but still a moral burden to adhere to them would be created, serving as a constant reminder. Furthermore, the alleged problem of refugees not knowing the local rules beforehand would be solved.

While the current system shows them that only illegal actions are rewarded, this could teach them that acting according to the legal system is rewarded instead. While some might argue that this would mean forcing “our” norms on them, it should be clear that respecting the very basic values of European society can be expected of all those who arrive. Everyone who enters this society is aware of this, and there is also no alternative.

The content of this codex would represent the basic European values of diversity, tolerance,  and equality of all ethnicities and religions – thus also creating an interesting public debate to truly determine and codify what we perceive as common European values. This would increase awareness and foster European identity.

The proposed measures will not automatically solve the situation but could buy us time to solve the real root causes, while facilitating the job of social workers on the municipal levels.


Image by Josh Zakary, taken from flickr

Politics & The World

by Louise Bicknese

Lately, with the process of increasing European integration, votes have gone up to develop a common European migration policy. The advantages are obvious: more clarity for the immigrant, a more regular distribution of immigrants over all member states (right now, 50% of immigrants go to 5 of the 28 member states), and less refugees getting lost in or out of the system and ending up on the streets. So why is it not here yet?

The answer is simple. A common policy 1) would be quite a harsh intrusion of states’ sovereignty and 2) the collection of European migration policies is incredibly diverse. Even within member states, immigration is a popular subject of debate and a headliner on political party programmes. Migration policies in the European Union comes in all sorts and flavours and right now, it is difficult to see an extensive common policy developing through so many different opinions. Point number one could be refuted by Article 63a in the Treaty of Lisbon, which gives the Union the right and competence to ‘develop a common immigration policy aimed at ensuring, at all stages, the efficient management of migration flows, fair treatment of third-country nationals residing legally in Member States…’[]

Point number two, however, invites a more complicated debate. First of all, countries who are dealing with a less severe immigration problem have no incentive to participate in the ‘burden sharing’ which Mr. Schulz, President of the European Parliament is so eagerly encouraging. This is already visible in the stance of the Dutch State Secretary of Justice, Fred Teeven, who is of the opinion that we should not necessarily aid boat refugees on the Mediterranean Sea, but rather offer help in the conflicted regions themselves – a very different opinion than the ones generally offered by European officials and politicians of southern European member states, who face this problem every day.

Then there is the ever-returning problem of diversity in member states’ policy. To illustrate this, we may look at Denmark, France and Germany and the focus of their immigration and integration policies. Denmark, for example, relies heavily on economic integration as the means but also as the goal of integration. This is combined with relatively closed borders; they almost never allow family or marriage migration, for example. Sanctions will be enacted if an immigrant does not show enough effort in finding a job. In France, however, it is a taboo to make a law for one specific group (in this case, immigrants or minorities) because of their historically essential ideas of equality and brotherhood. They spend a lot of money and resources on a contract between immigrant and state and target the first five years of residence in France as an important phase in integration. Lastly, Germany has some problems coordinating its policy between the national and regional level and the very important NGO’s. Their focus lies mainly with youth: 25% of immigrants are below 25. It is however interesting to see that Germany already has problems coordinating its policy within the state; imagine what kind of problems this could cause when applied to the entirety of Europe.

Even though most Western European countries are struggling with immigration problems and the call for a European policy is understandable, it is hard to see or predict which form this policy would have. Is it possible to find consensus between member states whose problems are quite different, say Spain and Finland? Spain houses 14,77% of non-EU immigrants while Finland stays at just 0,58%. The original nationalities of these immigrants differ as well: Spain’s foreign citizens are mostly from Morocco, Ecuador and Colombia. In Finland, however, they are mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq, Thailand, Somalia and China.

Different groups of immigrants have different needs and the European Union has to avoid the trap of making a policy which is too generalizing. This lack of attention to specific needs for different kinds of immigrants could possibly hurt them even more than the current system. However, if the policy is too complicated, the current despised bureaucracy could become even worse.

From these observations, the conclusion can be drawn that even though a common European migration policy could solve a lot of problems, the content of this law will be subject to a lot of discussion. Finding a balance between diversity and unity requires quite a lot of rope-balancing and the needs of the member states will often be in conflict with the needs of immigrant. A common policy would be a befitting next step in integration – nevertheless, the migration problem is probably one of the hardest to be tackled.