An Update on Europe's Migration Crisis
Turkey and the migration deal
The recent “one for one” deal between Turkey and EU nations went into effect on March 20 and has received harsh criticisms due to ethical implications. The plan would return those arriving on the shores of Greece to Turkey, whose reputation as a “safe” country has recently been questioned despite defense by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. In return, Turkey’s status within the EU will be reevaluated as a result of the country’s reception of immigrants. Those who arrived before the March 20 deadline will be resettled within the EU, though they are unable to choose which country.
Aid agencies and members of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees voiced extreme concern over potential ramifications of the deal, including Greece failing to create an adequate asylum system quickly enough (one in which refugees could claim asylum, allowing them to remain on the island). Mike Noyes, the Head of Humanitarian Response for Action Aid, claims the plan will “effectively turn the Greek Islands into prison camps where terrified people are held against their will before being deported back to Turkey.”
This attempt to stem the flow of Syrian refugees entering EU nations and return them to Turkey is not dissuading all potential migrants. Previous migratory patterns involving the forging of new routes are predicted to emerge once more. Governments in the Balkans are desperately responding to these new avenues of escape by providing arriving refugees with transportation to Germany. Some refugees still plan to make the journey to Europe in the hope of arrival. Others acknowledge the likelihood that their only option will be deportation or an indefinite stay in an ill-maintained refugee camp.
Greece and Camp Idomeni
Conditions at Idomeni, a refugee camp near the Greece-Macedonia border, have steadily become harsher in what some are calling an “embarrassment of European values.” Despite incredibly harsh conditions, including cold weather, waterlogged tents, and an increase in communicable diseases, as well as calls for deportation, those within border camps remain determined to move forward. This situation is escalating following the closure of the Macedonian border.
London and the Immigration Conference
$12 billion in funds were allocated by the UN refugee agency during a conference held in London on February 4. However, half of these funds have yet to be dispersed, according to reports by the agency’s High Commissioner Filippo Grandi. These funds would improve the situation of refugees living in European host countries by creating opportunities for education and employment. Grandi critiqued the ‘closed door’ rhetoric of European politicians unwilling to accept immigrants, and complimented Canada for their acceptance of 26,000 refugees and for viewing the plight of refugees as a necessary “national project.” Grandi also called for the resettlement of 480,000 immigrants over the next 3 years, a figure which would still only account for 10% of the 4.8 million refugees currently seeking asylum.
EU Commissioner on migration Dmitris Avramopolous has suggested membering nations add 54,000 spaces for Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey to the established global figure of 179,000.
The UK has pledged to re-disperse 20,000 refugees from camps over the next five years, with a further amendment agreeing to take in 3,000 unaccompanied children.
Elections in Spain, Slovakia, Portugal and Ireland
Diverging views in support of parties holding both anti-EU and anti-immigration in Slovakia, Portugal, Spain and Ireland have led to the rise of sentiments backing radical groups on both sides of the political spectrum. A weakening of these governments has stemmed from party fragmentation at a time when these nations are in particular need of strong governments to combat the issues arising from the economic and political strife posed by the refugee crisis on this continent.
Elections in Slovakia on March 6 resulted in the return of eight different parties to parliament. Prime Minister Robert Fico’s ‘Smer’ party won the parliamentary election, and maintains a stance on immigration which is “one of the toughest among EU politicians” according to Dalibor Rohac of the American Enterprise Institute. Far-right groups have made simultaneous gains within this election and may attempt to form a coalition with centre-right groups if Fico’s Smer party proves unable to form a stable government. The Far Right People’s Party of Marian Kotleba is included amongst these groups, winning 8 % of the vote. Kotleba has been known to champion Nazi-related symbols (such as the uniform), and is known for “anti-immigration” and “anti-corruption” rhetoric.
Spain has remained without a government since the country went to polls on December 20. It has faced the complications of fragmentation after elections saw the resounding success of the young ‘Podemos’ party. Podemos obtained 21 % of the vote, following close behind the 29% won by the conservative People’s Party (PP), whose ruling position was challenged by Podemos and their traditional rivals, the Socialists, who gained 22%. This fragmentation stems from complaints that Spain’s old governing system was “out of touch with the value of the people”. The lack of strong central leadership could have implications regarding Spain’s ability to respond to the ways in which they remain influenced by the refugee crisis.
Portugal’s political situation has been unstable since December 2015, following the success of Antonio Costa, who succeeded conservative Prime Minister Pedro Passos. Costa managed to draw together an alliance which had seemed inconceivable until his victory. Political commentator Antonio Passos Palmeira predicts instability in the future of this “fragile leftist alliance,” saying that despite allowing Antonio Costa to come to power, they do not “guarantee a sustainable government.”
Anti-austerity sentiment in Ireland followed elections near the end of February 2016, and resulted in Prime Minister Enda Kenny failing to maintain parliamentary coalition support; two political parties that have been rivals since the 1920s are left fighting for control.
The eventual consequences and ramifications of this governmental fragmentation may be witnessed in these countries’ inability to adequately address recent issues centered around the influx of Syrian refugees and the attempts of the continent as a whole to attempt to reach a solution.