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Refugee crisis becomes Europe's limbo

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

09-09-2015 17:10 BJT

By Zhang Bei, assistant research fellow, Department for European Studies, China Institute of International Studies

In recent months, Europe's migrant crisis has begun to unfold at an unprecedented pace with human tragedies occurring on a daily basis. According to the UNHCR’s (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) estimates, around 366,000 illegal migrants have reached Europe this year, setting a record. At least 2,800 have died or disappeared during the journey. Consequently, Europe is struggling to cope.

The EU (European Union) system for handling refugees is crumbling. Under the EU's Dublin system for handling refugees, most responsibilities are placed to the first EU member state that migrants reach. Italy, Greece and other Mediterranean countries are standing at the frontlines. However, these countries are the least capable to handle such matters.

Greece has got enough troubles on its plate. As many migrants arrived in Greece first, Athens suspended the Dublin rule. The system has further eroded in recent weeks. German's nod at asylum seekers leaving Hungary and moving northward reveals the Dublin system is a failure.

European unity has crumbled amidst the crisis. In the months-long migrant surge, European countries' common wish is to pass the problem elsewhere. Some have resorted to implementing stiff security measures to keep migrants out; others have accelerated their passage to the so-called nest state. Every state considers its national interests first, and a European coherent response is nowhere to be seen.

In May the European Commission proposed relocating 40,000 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU countries with national quotas, but had to abandon it due to opposition from Eastern Europe and Spain. In recent weeks, facing a new proposal of national quotas, the Visegrád Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) showed defiance.

The gap between Eastern and Western Europe has become more obvious, since Germany announced it expects to receive 800,000 asylum-seekers while Poland and Slovak would only accept a few hundred Christian asylum-seekers.

EU countries are trapped in a moral dilemma. European's contradictory feelings towards the swarms of asylum-seekers are reflected everywhere. In recent months Germany has witnessed increasing cases of refugee centers under attack. Meanwhile, crowds of Germans welcome refugees at the Munich station with balloons and toys for children.

Until recently, the British seemed apathetic towards the migrant surge in the continent, offering no statement or action from the government. But a few days ago, Prime Minister David Cameron started to take action.

Under the current economic situation with a slow recovery and high unemployment rates, Europeans feel less "tolerant" towards immigrants who are overwhelming the state welfare and taking away their jobs. Right-wing parties, holding the banner of anti-immigration, are on the rise in Europe.

Nevertheless, it doesn't mean that Europe is forsaking its values. Many Europeans remain committed to protect the less fortunate and embrace multi-culturalism. The unwillingness to discard the moral high ground and practical considerations of domestic politics would explain European Countries’ selective morality to deal with asylum-seekers.

EU has had plenty of troubles with the migrant crisis as a new one. The economic recovery and growth still has a long way to go, while tensions are erupting over its eastern borders. Yet, the migrant crisis appears to be the most difficult to resolve.

Apparently, the lack of peace, stability and development in the Middle East and North Africa region would cost Europe dearly. The EU has neither the capability nor the willingness to address the root cause. The test for Europe may never stop here.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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