Migration of people into developed nations is not a new phenomenon. Migrants from countries like Mexico now form a major portion of the working populations of the countries they have migrated to. Not only on the work front, they have been accepted culturally and ingrained into the everyday social life as well. But balancing the influx of migrants with the ability of the target nation to support them is a major cause of concern currently.
If anyone has been taking any interest in global news recently, the sudden rise of the European migrant crisis is bound to catch one’s attention. But the problem is, it is a bit difficult for an average person to make sense of all the statistics, the migration laws and the sudden nature of this problem. We have our short attention spans and aversion towards numbers to blame for that.
Europe has been facing an onslaught of migrants every year. In the whole of 2013 there were 4.5 lakh asylum applications to European Union (EU) countries, which rose upto 6.25 lakh applications within a year. These numbers do not account for the hundreds of thousands who got in undetected. Why are people doing this?
One look at the map shows us that most migrants are coming from the Middle-Eastern countries and the African continent. The conflicts raging in Syria and Afghanistan, as well as the relentless abuse dealt upon the general populace in the totalitarian regime of Eritrea are major drivers in pushing the people to seek a haven elsewhere. The African continent in general suffers from poverty at a massive scale and the problems that come with it. That is one of the reasons that the world has seen a fairly spread out African population, another being colonialism. Parts of the continent bearing the brunt of rebel groups like Boko Harem, or under totalitarian regimes with little or no concept of basic human rights and freedom, haven’t really been able to muster the confidence of the people in a potentially inhabitable future for themselves and generations to come.
Considering the Middle East, we just need to open the news and we get to know what sort of a mess most of the smaller middle eastern countries are in. It doesn’t really take a deep understanding of regional politics and religious conflicts to understand the fear and tension that a normal individual lives amid in those nations. So it’s no surprise that the largest number of immigrants this year so far has been from Syria due to the country’s brutal civil war situation.
But it’s not exactly a cakewalk into a neighborhood lot that we are talking about here. Most of the source countries are suffering from such massive infrastructure and basic law and order failure that leaving itself is a big achievement. Once they have done that, they have the Mediterranean on one side, the Balkans on another.
More than 2500 migrants have drowned to their deaths this year so far trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Greece or Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration. The short voyage from Turkey to the Greek islands is much less perilous compared to the one from Libya. The chaos in Libya has led to the exploitation of the migrants by people trafficker, often for thousands of dollars per person. Yet, there have been accidents and tragedies. Some of the worse tragedies in 2015 include:
- Two boats carrying about 500 migrants sinking after leaving Zuwara in Libya on 27 August
- Bodies of 71 people, believed to be Syrian migrants, discovered in an abandoned lorry in Austria on 27 August
- Shipwreck off Italy’s Lampedusa island on 19 April took an estimated 800 lives
- At least 300 migrants feared to have drowned after attempting to cross the Mediterranean in rough seas in early February
These are lives we are talking about here. Each one of them like each one of us, seeking better conditions to live, with no hope of returning to their homeland or its survival-revival anywhere within their lifetimes.
So what happens once they reach the European nations? They might be welcome, they might be sent back. Faced by this onslaught, Hungary has constructed a 175km wide barbed wire fence and has urged nations further into the continent not to send back immigrants to Hungary. Do you feel the reaction is harsh and cruel? Do not forget that due to geographical location, certain countries are bearing the brunt of the mass migration, with 3,000 people expected to cross into Macedonia each day in the coming months and countries like Austria expecting 80,000 applications this year.
It is not really a harsh take. There are already laws and agreements in place to deal with this. The member states of European Commission had agreed to take in 32,000 Syrians and Eritreans over a period of next two years. The asylum policy standardization across Europe has been a matter of debate for years. Especially with the economic conditions in Europe being somewhat gloomy and a large portion of Europeans unemployed, it is no wonder that the countries are wary of more foreign workers and resource consumers. Putting across common Asylum policies EU wide with 28 member nations is not a task to be achieved overnight, not with the numbers increasing and the economy worsening everyday.
Even in such a condition, there are certain rights granted to an asylum seeker. They have right to food, shelter and first aid in a reception center. Even the non-granting of asylum can be challenged in court. They are also entitled to the right to work within 9months of their arrival. Not only that, statistically almost half of the applications are accepted every year based on humanitarian grounds themselves.
Why should all of this concern you? The attempt, through this piece, is to simplify the currently complex portrayal of the situation in Europe. Once you can see it properly, it is not difficult to understand that this is soon going to affect the target countries by pushing the limits of support that they can extend to these migrants. The harmony established in Europe within the European Union might itself be challenged with countries on both sides of the asylum debate. Fingers are already being pointed at the United Kingdom. Border checks are being imposed for every citizen. The basic concept of Schengen visa is being gradually chipped at.
The possible impact of all of the above is not something worth explaining. The consequences of a walled up Europe with strict national boundaries on trade and commute are quite self explanatory. It will affect not only the European economy but also the nations which depend on it to generate employment for them, like India. In basic terms, if you are planning a Europe trip but aren’t really fond of visas, better do it now. Pretty soon, you may not have that client who pays your salary or the country that welcomes you with open arms.
And from next time, do take some interest in World news before it becomes your news.