As the number of refugees rise, European initiatives to welcome them and integrate them into European society have increased. However, European solidarity on the issue, is far from being homogenous and common European policies need to be devised in order manage the situation correctly.
On September 3rd, Francois Holland (the President of France) and Angela Merkel (the German Chancellor) addressed the various European institutions in a letter calling upon all the E.U. Member States to face “the greatest European challenge [migration]”. They pleaded for better mechanisms, that would make the management of the huge influx of people more effective; that welcoming ‘hotspots’ should be made in port countries such as Greece and Italy that would provide the right tools, in order to offer the permanent relocation of refugees; that the establishment of a list of ‘safe countries’ be made; that the ‘refugee corridors’ be dismantled; and that Europe supports the neighbouring countries of the exoduses people.
In many ways, the refugee crisis is a test on the effectiveness of the European Union as an international governance tool. On September 14th, E.U Ministers gathered in Brussels to come up with common solutions to the situation facing Europe. Holland and Merkel’s propositions were on the meeting’s agenda, however, one could say that the assembly didn’t achieve a great deal.
More E.U. countries have said that they are imposing border checks to better manage the situation, but this clashes with the E.U.’s Schengen agreement which grants people free movement among E.U. States. The law does allow temporary controls in the case of emergencies, however, the influx of people is unlikely to quieten down anytime soon. Germany alone expects one million migrants this year (higher than the initial estimate of 800 000).
The German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, stated that the increasing number of border controls in the E.U. are a sign that Germany “cannot accommodate all of the refugees alone”. What’s more, the UN refugee agency has stated that refugees may find themselves “in legal limbo”, and that the different border control measures adopted by E.U. countries “only underlines the urgency of establishing a comprehensive European response”.
Besides this, Germany’s border controls have been criticised for causing 20km long traffic jams in Austria’s motorways. Their decision to also bypass the Dublin III regulation – which states that refugees must register in their country of arrival – is causing problems. Many refugees are refusing to register themselves in Greece, or Italy as they fear that this will affect their asylum seeking applications in Germany, or other E.U. states for that matter.
Meanwhile, the E.U. interior ministers have agreed (in principle) to relocate 120 000 asylum seekers. Despite this, details of how the refugees will be shared among E.U. states remains in the shadows. The details are virtually non-existent and many countries have opposed any propositions that mention mandatory quotas.
Furthermore, a plan to “search, seizure and diversion… of vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling” has been approved by the E.U. to operate in the Mediterranean. It is hard to say for the time being whether this will have a positive impact on the crisis.