Europe’s Immigration Crisis

Posted by on Jul 12, 2018 in World

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve probably heard a lot about Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, and the controversy surrounding the separation of immigrant and refugee parents and children at our nation’s borders. But the United States isn’t the only country facing an immigration crisis. Europe is also harshly divided over the issue of immigration, which is seriously straining the relationships between countries and threatening European unity. Here, btw takes a closer look at how this controversial issue is playing out overseas.

So What’s Happening In Europe?

Germany is at the center of the debate. German chancellor Angela Merkel has long been a vocal supporter of immigration, and a staunch defender of open borders between European nations. In fact, this principle of open borders is one of the key ideas that the EU (European Union) is founded on. But last week, Merkel’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, faced off against Merkel on the issue of “secondary migrants.” These are people who enter Europe through another country, such as Italy, Greece, or Austria, and then, because of the EU’s open border policy, travel to Germany to settle permanently. Seehofer, with the support of the conservative political party he leads, insisted that Merkel close the border to secondary migrants. If Merkel doesn’t, Seehofer said he will either do it himself or resign.

A Not-So-Great Compromise?

In response, Angela Merkel announced a compromise: Germany will set up refugee camps for secondary migrants along its border with Austria. Authorities will then review the status of each refugee. If it turns out that the person has applied for temporary status in another European country, they’ll be sent back to that country.

But this makeshift solution is full of problems. For one thing, the refugee camps–or “transit centers,” as Merkel is calling them–could potentially become mass detention centers or internment camps, with the overcrowding, poor sanitation, and dangerous conditions so typical of such places around the world. And secondly, it’s impossible to expect German authorities to be able to review the paperwork of every single refugee. This could lead to unfair treatment.

Why It Matters

Other EU nations may choose to respond to this development by imposing similar limitations on immigrants along their own borders. This means that European borders will remain open in name only: in practice, they will be closed. The fundamental tenet of the EU is open borders and border-free travel . . . so this change threatens the very concept of European unity.

It’s also another blow to the status of immigrants and refugees not just in Europe, but all over the globe. Merkel’s Germany has long stood as a model of open borders against other international leaders including President Trump and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. If Germany becomes more hostile to immigrants as well, it further threatens the basic human rights of migrants, immigrants, and refugees worldwide.

Dig Deeper As discussed above, many “secondary migrants” enter Germany through Italy, Greece, and Austria. Use internet resources to locate a map of the region. Where might refugees who enter Europe through these countries have originally come from? What do you know about conditions in many of those nations, or why people might choose to leave them?