Europe Suffocating Under Pressure of Refugee Flows: Is There a Way Out?

Europe Suffocating Under Pressure of Refugee Flows: Is There a Way Out?

Europe is hit by waves of refugee flows coming from the Middle East and North Africa, especially Libya. Italy is hardest hit. The aggravation of problem was prompted by the UK-France aggression. Italy did not take part in the operation against Libya though Paris and London called on Italians to demonstrate “European solidarity” and join the combat. 

Now Italy is facing the problem of immigrants but the calls for solidarity are forgotten. The EU is forcing all member states to accept quotas that will depend on each country’s GDP, unemployment, population and the number of requests for asylum. It evokes discontent. British Prime Minister David Cameron warned Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, that the United Kingdom would impose limits on the number of refugees coming to the country. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France would continue to turn back the migrants. He said Italy must follow the EU's Dublin regulations, which assign most asylum seekers to the first EU country they enter until their application has been processed. The French Interior Ministry says it tightened border controls due to the influx of migrants. Switzerland did the same.

The EU launched a naval operation against human traffickers in the Mediterranean on 22 June. Dubbed "EUNAVFOR Med" its mission is to identify, capture and dispose of vessels used to smuggle refugees to Europe. A UN mandate has yet to be adopted.Speaking at the special meeting of EU Council,Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said countries from throughout the EU will provide military assets for the operation. Mogherini reiterated that less than two months ago, EU leaders tasked the Commission with preparing an operation in the Mediterranean to save lives and disrupt human trafficking. 

The operation is launched today, she said, insisting that its target is not immigrants, but those who make money with their lives and “too often with their deaths”. According to her, "With this operation, we are targeting the business model of those who benefit from the misery of migrants. But it's only a part of a broader strategy including the cooperation with our partners in Africa, particularly in the Sahel region, and the work with the International Organization for Migration and the UNHCR. As (the) EU, we are determined to contribute to save lives, dismantle the networks of the smugglers of human beings and address the root causes of migration." Does the fact of launching such an operation without an appropriate resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council dovetail with the international law? That’s something to ponder.

The number of refugees sent to each country would be decided according to a “redistribution key” based on GDP, population size, unemployment rate and past numbers of asylum seekers. Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden together receive around 75 per cent of migrants who reach the EU. Under EU law the UK, Ireland and Denmark are exempt from the quota plan. Ronald Zonca of Boulevard Voltairewrites that the EU decisions are taken not by politicians but by kamikaze suicide bombers ready to destroy themselves. 

Many experts believe that the “migration mine” is more dangerous than the Greek debt. The EU June 26 summit failed to take a decision on mandatory quotas for each country."Leaders agreed that 40,000 persons in need will be relocated from Greece and Italy to other states over the next two years," summit chairman Donald Tusk told reporters. "Interior ministers will finalize the scheme by the end of July." Leaders also agreed to resettle another 20,000 refugees who are currently outside the EU. The summit did not say what to do with others. There are 2 million refugees in Turkey alone and they all want to go to Europe. Each state has to tackle the problem on its own. 

Hungary announced plans on June 17 to build a four-meter-high fence along its border with Serbia to stem the flow of illegal migrants. "We are talking about a stretch of border 175 km (110 miles) long, whose physical closure can happen with a four-meter high fence," said Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. In January 2015 Victor Orban told Hungarian state TV in the margins of the rally, held in support of free speech and tolerance in Europe, that the Charlie Hebdo murders should make the EU restrict access to migrants with “different cultural characteristics”. Referring to the flow of African and Arab migrants to the EU, he said, “Economic immigration is a bad thing in Europe, it should not be seen as having any benefits, because it only brings trouble and danger to the peoples of Europe". According to his remarks, “While I am Prime Minister, Hungary will definitely not become an immigration destination. We don't want to see significantly sized minorities with different cultural characteristics and backgrounds among us. We want to keep Hungary as Hungary". In 2014 43 thousand refugees came to Hungary. 54 thousand have already entered the country this year. 95% of immigrants cross the Serbia border. Hungary is a small country. Its population is around 10 million. Adding 100 thousand Muslims from different countries every year will inevitably produce the undesired result.

Some 275,000 foreign citizens asked Russia for asylum last year to hide on its territory from war and persecution, the UN refugee agency said in its annual Global Trends Report: World at War released on June 18. "With a total of 274,700 registered individual asylum requests, the Russian Federation became the largest single recipient of new individual asylum claims worldwide in 2014," the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. This figure includes about 7,000 applications for refugee status and some 267,800 applications for temporary asylum in Russia. "In previous years, the combined figure had never exceeded the 5,000 mark," the report reads. The outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine had a major impact on the 2014 figures. A total of 271,200 or around 99% of claims in Russia were lodged by Ukrainians, it says. "Of the 1.47 million initial individual asylum applications registered with either UNHCR or States worldwide during 2014, Ukrainians lodged 288,600 claims - on average, every fifth claim," according to the report.

Zarina Kornilova of the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) told on June 17 at a press-conference that there were around 2, 6 million Ukrainian citizens on the territory of Russia. Over one million of them had to leave the south-east of the country due to ongoing military conflict. 364 thousand people have asked for temporary asylum or the status of refugee since the beginning of 2014. 117 thousand applied for governmental assistance program to help compatriotsliving outside. If Russia followed the example of EU, it would erect a wall along the border with Ukraine. 

There is a difference between the immigrants coming to the European Union and the Russian Federation. Unlike Muslims entering the European Union, ethnic Russians come to Russia from the territory of Ukraine. But what strikes an eye – in Russia refugees are treated in quite a different way. Like Belarus, Russia approves 90% of applications for asylum. For comparison, only in around 10% of cases positive decisions on asylum applications are taken in Belgium, Finland, France, Poland and the United Kingdom each. In the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy positive decisions are taken only in 35% - 65 % of cases. According to UN refugee office, there were 1, 47 individual asylum applications in 2014. Every fifth applicant (totally 288 600 refugees) came from Ukraine. For comparison, Ukraine leaves Syria behind with only 171 200 Syrians applying for asylum that year.