Last updated: 11-6-15
This essay contains background material on the current refugee crisis facing Europe, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon (primarily).
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The Magnitude of the Crisis
Recent evidence put the numbers of refugees entering Europe at 8,000 per day, with more than 5,000 per day entering Greece.
A daily flow of about 8,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees to Europe is likely to continue, the United Nations warns. The figure came from UN regional coordinator for refugees Amin Awad, who spoke to Reuters news agency. More than 5,000 refugees are arriving daily in Greece. That flow could continue during the winter if the weather remains good and the borders open, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) told the BBC. About half a million migrants – mostly from Syria and other conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa – have arrived in Europe this year. BBC
One million are expected to arrive in Europe by the end of the year. The oncoming winter means that even more are fleeing now.
Three million more are expected in 2016.
Germany alone saw 270,000 refugees in September. 102, 000 have entered Slovenia in the last week (more below). The pressure on other East European states is similar:
Other Central European states have similar numbers: Macedonia, which like Slovenia is a former Yugoslav republic, saw 49,000 people enter last week alone; 300,000 people have entered the country of 2 million people since the start of the year, Mirjana Milenkovski of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told Bloomberg.(The Atlantic).
Three million more could leave Syria. The bombing in Syria by Russia will only increase the flow. 120,000 have fled Syria in the last month.
And this is just Europe. These numbers are in addition to the two million that Turkey, the 1.1 million that Lebanon [200,000 refugee children to get free schooling in Lebanon], the 1.4 million that Jordan has taken in [a estimate has Jordan taking in 600,000 Syrians and 1.4 million refugees total]. And as countries and refugees centers/camps in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan became unable maintain support services for the large number of refugees, especially without support from wealthier countries, it becomes difficult for countries to take even more. [Lebanon appeals for more assistance].
The refugees are 30% of Lebanon’s population and 20% of Jordan’s population.
And while Jordan struggles the US is pushing Jordan to take even more, even though Jordan’s resistance is strong.
Turkey is finding itself in a similar situation to Jordan, unable to taken in more refugees, at least in some cities. [Related: The World Bank Increases Assistance]
Countries are struggling to support the number of refugees they have taken in because international assistance is inadequate.
As noted, most of the refugees are fleeing the civil war in Syria, which is expected to get worse [4 million have left Syria and live in poverty. Syria is Emptying], but many others are also fleeing conflicts in Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan. Many of those who stay in Syria are simply too poor to leave. Others are returning because the conditions in the refugee camps have become so bad due to a lack of resources.
More than 4 million people have fled Syria since 2011.
As reported by the Washington Examiner on September 30th, the most recent evidence for popular destinations:
All face substantial health risks. Many, including those stranded in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey, lack adequate food and humanitarian needs are inadequately funded:
Normally, refugees might turn to aid agencies like UNHCR, which are running many programmes to help them survive. But the scale of the problem is so large, and it has been going on for so long, that donors are struggling to find the money to pay for these schemes. When the numbers of Syrian refugees arriving in Europe surged last month, UNHCR began to receive new donor pledges to increase aid in neighbouring countries. Even so, this year’s international appeal for Syrian refugees is just over half funded. Recently, World Food Programme vouchers were cut for thousands of refugees, forcing many into “negative coping strategies”, including begging and child labour. In Jordan, many refugees have also lost free access to healthcare. Almost 60% of adults with chronic conditions are now forced to survive without medicine – up from 23% in 2014. Refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt say cuts like these are the last straw, leaving them little choice but to leave. [The Guardian. 10/25]
Many face imminent death in the freezing conditions.
Rosaly Warren, November 2, 2015, Refugees Could Freeze to Death in Europe as Winter Heads Their Way, Buzzfeed, http://www.buzzfeed.com/rossalynwarren/winter-storms-refugees-europe#.ng4XEQdEVl
As rising numbers of refugees battle against freezing temperatures, heavy rains, and strong storms across Europe, the need for winter assistance has become more urgent than ever. “Brother, he is alive! He is alive,” a man shouts as he lifts a small boy floating on the Aegean Sea on to his fishing boat. “My God, he is alive.” In a grainy video released last week, an 18-month-old boy is seen to flop lifelessly on to the boat. Fishermen, who were off the coast of Kusadasi, Turkey, clamber to remove the child’s jacket and clear water from his lungs. Before finding this boy, the fishermen had rescued 15 other refugees, who had pleaded with them to go back and find other survivors. “One person was saying that his brother was still there and somebody was saying that there was a kid still in the water,” one fisherman said. “We saw a life vest, which looked like an empty floating life vest. When we got close, it looked like a toy, like a doll, and we thought he was dead. My first thought was, ‘OK, we have to pick up this dead baby body from the water.’” The boy survived. But with the impending arrival of winter, weather conditions threaten to make the sea crossing from Turkey to Greece even more treacherous for those trying to to flee war, persecution, and poverty. On Friday alone, 22 people drowned in two shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea. On Wednesday, the Greek coastguard rescued 242 refugees whose wooden boat sank north of the island of Lesbos. At least three people drowned, including two small boys. A week earlier, 12 drowned when their boat went down off the Turkish coast as they were attempting to reach Greece, while around 25 others were rescued. Two weeks before, at least 22 refugees, including 11 women and four children, drowned when their overcrowded boat sank in the Aegean. “The waves of the Aegean are not just washing up dead refugees, dead children, but [also] the very civilisation of Europe,” Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said Friday. Lifeless bodies washing on to the Greek and Turkish shores – including that of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose death prompted global outrage – have served as a daily reminder of the high risks refugees take when crossing the Aegean Sea. In the first half of September, more than 70 people drowned making a last bid to cross the water before the weather worsened. By the end of the month, the number of refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey leapt from 4,500 to 7,000 a day. In total, more than 218,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe by sea in the month of October – a record for any month and roughly the same as the total number to arrive in 2014, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As the weather steadily worsens, smugglers in Turkey are searching for larger boats to meet the demand. Some refugees have reported that smugglers are offering discounted journeys on rubber dinghies because of the bad weather, UNHCR said. The high commissioner, António Guterres, said that the pursuit of smuggler boats has become more difficult, and warned that the harsh weather conditions affecting refugees across Europe could lead to “a tragedy at any moment”. Kate O’Sullivan, emergency response personnel for Save the Children in Greece, told BuzzFeed News that the winter months could be devastating for those crossing central and southeastern Europe. “The waves will continue to get higher, the water will get rougher,” she said. “You always know when a boat has capsized, because you can hear the helicopter overhead. Every time a boat goes down, it always seems to be the children who have drowned. “Frankly, I am terrified for what the weather’s going to be like this winter.” At least 100,000 refugees crossed EU borders towards western Europe during the warmer months this year. But unlike previous years, freezing temperatures, heavy rains, and strong storms in central and southeastern Europe have not slowed down the surge of refugees. “For this time of year, we normally see the numbers drop – but records have been broken for the number of people arriving,” Itayi Viriri from International Organisation for Migration (IOM) told BuzzFeed News. “Whatever we thought was standard for patterns of migration in this manner is no longer the case.” On Friday, the IOM announced it was ramping up its “winter assistance” for refugees living in makeshift shelters with little protection from the cold, including provision of weatherproofing kits, replacement of damaged tents, distribution of winter clothes, fuel vouchers, unconditional cash grants, and kits including stoves, coal, and blankets. Viriri said desperation is the driving force behind the growing influx of refugees: “The reality is most people are trying to make this journey are so desperate. They know the conditions will be perilous, but with the death they are escaping from, they’re going to take that chance.” European leaders are fielding public pressure on two fronts: on the one hand, the need to help the hundreds of thousands displaced and facing treacherous weather, and on the other, the urge to close their borders to slow down the influx of arrivals. Austria, Slovenia, and even Germany – the country that has opened its doors widest to refugees – recently declared new efforts to tighten their refugee policy and strengthen their border controls, and leaders met in Brussels over the weekend to discuss plans to help people survive the winter. “The immediate imperative is to provide shelter. It cannot be that in the Europe of 2015 people are left to fend for themselves, sleeping in fields,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said in Brussels. He warned that refugees will die unless governments act. “Every day counts,” he added. “Otherwise we will soon see families in cold rivers in the Balkans perish miserably.”
[Photo journalism story of the crisis]
There are thousands of unaccompanied minor children. Many of these refugee children are preyed on by paedophiles. [Refugee children resort to “survival sex”]
Many refugees have been strip searched and have had their human rights abused.
And the closing of the Hungary border (more on this below), has left 10,000 refugees who are trying to get to Western Europe through Slovenia stranded on the Serbia-Croatia border. These refugees are facing medicine shortages as winter sets in.
The international humanitarian aid infrastructure simply cannot keep pace with the scope of the crisis, though it could be effective if more aid was provided.
This crisis could last for decades. And these are just refugees attempting to enter Europe; the number of refugees globally is at the highest point since World War II.
The only thing that’s really slowing them down is the cold weather, [Cold weather and closed borders compound refugees’ misery]. The cold weather is creating a humanitarian catastrophe.
And in case you are struggling with the idea of so many people leaving Syria and risking their lives to flea to Europe…this video that was shot from a drone over Syria will help you understand…and this is just Syria. People are also fleeing Iraq, Eritrea, and other places for similar reasons.
According to Vox, “The video purports to show footage taken in Jobar, an eastern suburb of the capital, Damascus. The Syrian government and rebels have been fighting over Jobar for about two years; the video shows explosions and tanks firing in the middle of bombed-out streets. It is a surreal and hellish scene.”
As countries such as Germany have moved to close their borders, countries are meeting to try to prevent that to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.
The Crisis Comes to the Forefront
Five issues have recently brought the issue to the attention of the media and foreign leaders.
One, a growing number of people have drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea with the support of smugglers. (So many have drowned off the Greek Island of Lesbos that there is no longer room in the morgue). The humanitarian plight was highlighted by photos of a fully-clothed three-year old boy who drowned and whose body washed ashore. Photos of the dead boy laying on a beach were widely distributed across the Internet.
Tony Munclair, leader of the New Democrats in Canada, “compared the picture of the boy on the beach to the iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph from the Vietnam War of the young girl who was severely burned by napalm.” (Haaretz). [Sad note: ISIS actually uses this photograph to argue that death is punishment for attempting to escape to the West].
The significance of the problem of drowning related to those attempting to cross cannot be underestimated.
The crisis, of course, had been simmering long before April. According to the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM), some 3,200 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2014. (The number was nearly 2,000 for just the first half of 2015.) Elaine Ayo
Twenty two more died on October 29th ,and fifty have drowned in the last three days. The number of deaths is expected to increase dramatically.
850,000 refugees are expected to cross the Mediterranean between now and the end of 2016. [Greeks despair over drowned refugee children]. Although it was previously possible to pass through Greece by land, Greece’s construction of a border fence has made this impossible, pushing migrants to cross by sea.
At least one report suggests Greece’s Coast Guard may be deliberately cutting the power supply of boats to leave refugees stranded at sea. Greece has taken in 15,000 in a single day.
On October 21st, 100 refugees were rescued from boats off the Cyprus coast near a British airbase. The refugees will have to apply for asylum in Cyprus, not the UK.
Two, many refuges who had made their way into Hungry (until it recently (9-15) put up a border fence, Hungry was the primary entry point in the EU for refugees) became stranded at the Keleti train station when Hungarian authorities were not letting trains pass to Austria because the refugees hadn’t first registered in Hungary.
Hungary attempted to forcefully register these 6,000 refugees (It is EU Policy under the Dublin Resolution for migrants to register in the first country they reach), but then provided them, sans registration, with transportation assistance (buses) to reach the Austrian border, where some stayed but most moved on to Germany (mostly Munich, but some to Dortmund and Frankfurt).
This largely happened because the Hungarian government lost control of the situation, has thousands left the train station and surrounding refugee camps and started walking to Austria.
Germany said that this was a one-off exception and Hungary said the same thing about the busing.
Austria is growing concerned about the sheer numbers and plans on lifting the emergency measures that allowed immigrants to cross from Hungary.
Since then, thousands started streaming out of Hungary’s refugee camps toward the Austrian and Germany border. And more and more are pushing their way through restrictions established by the police. Although busing the 6,000 to Austria so that they (mostly) could head on to Germany took the immediate pressure off an explosive situation, it didn’t create any long-term solution because, as noted, the main entry point to the European Union for refugees on foot is Hungary.
Although Hungary let this initial wave of refugees pass, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has taken a hard line against the migrants (hundreds were gathered into what the government called reception centers but local police officers were calling a new “alien holding center”), promised to seal Hungary’s border within days and Hungary and built a long fence along its border with Serbia. Parliament committed to effectively sealing the border by September 15th and succeeded in doing so.
Three, the situation between police and the refugees in many areas has turned violent.
Greece’s migration minister Ioannis Mouzalas has rushed to Lesvos after a second day of street fighting on the Aegean isle. Scenes of stone-pelting refugees engaged in hand-to-hand battle with local police has prompted the government to step up security with two extra units of riot police being dispatched to the island earlier today. Amid renewed violence local officials processing newcomers this morning locked themselves in a container as refugees, once again, vented their anger over delays in registration. On Saturday police resorted to using tear gas and stun grenades as around 500 Afghans attempted to seize and board a ferry heading to Athens. At least four were injured, one seriously. With an estimated 13,000 migrants and refugees on the island – and hundreds arriving every day – the local mayor, Spyros Galanos, described the situation as being “out of control.”(Guardian)
- Spanish media say police fired rubber bullets at migrants in a detention centre in Valencia after about 50 tried to escape
- Police in Macedonia scuffled with thousands of migrants trying to cross into the country from Greece
- Hundreds of migrants are in a stand-off with Hungarian police on border with Serbia. BBC News producer Imelda Flattery is tweeting from the scene.
How to manage the flow of refugees and what countries will accept them has become a significant policy problem.
The Global Response
Though arguable small compared to the size of the problem, countries of the world have begun responding to the crisis. The UN General Assembly took up the issue at its meetings in New York this week (9-28-10-2), countries have pledged more than a billion dollars to refugee camps in the Middle East, and Europe has agreed to resettle 120,000 refugees. The US and many other countries are increasing the number of refugees they will take, though not by a significant number. [Voice of America].
The private sector is also stepping up, with Facebook teaming up to the UN to offer refugees free Internet. Fedex is stepping up with cash and transportation assistance.
The support for a response varies substantially among individual countries and in this section I will discuss the efforts of individual countries.
The Response of European Countries
Under the leadership of Chancellor Andrea Merkel, Germany has led the way on refugee resettlement plans on accepting hundreds of thousands more and continues to be welcoming. Germany said it could take 500,000+ refugees per year. It has even translated its Constitution into Arabic to help the refugees.
As Europe’s wealthiest country, Germany is arguably the European country most capable of absorbing the costs. [Why Germany Welcomes Refugees]. And since prior to the arrival of the refugees its population was shrinking,
One problem that has developed with the large acceptance of refugees by Germany is that there is a right-wing backlash brewing against the acceptance. [Right Wing Backlash Grows, 10-9, 10-15]
A second problem that is starting to develop is overcrowding in the refugee centers in Germany. This is creating substantial problems within the centers.
An Associated Press survey has found that at least three of Germany’s 16 states have lowered their requirements for refugee shelters, including for the minimum amount of space given to each refugee. Six states had no minimum requirements or said it was up to inspectors to approve conditions on a case-by-case basis. Two didn’t respond. Rights groups warned Tuesday that overcrowding is causing stress in refugee shelters, citing a mass brawl between up to 400 residents at one refugee tent city last weekend. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has dismissed their concerns, saying “we can’t offer any luxury and we don’t want to offer any luxury.” [US News & World Report].
These two issues have pushed Germany to limit it support for the refugees:
Berlin on Tuesday agreed measures aimed at curbing an unprecedented surge in migrants, including cuts to cash payments, as a backlash grew over the German government’s handling of the refugee crisis. The new laws are aimed at lifting some of the pressures on overworked local officials and reassuring voters that the government is in control of the migrant problem. Berlin wants the laws to take effect as soon as November. Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under mounting pressure, including from within her own CDU/CSU coalition, since she pledged to set “no upper limit” on the right to asylum and promised to accept all refugees from Syria. Officials expects 800,000 refugees this year, four times more than 2014. In a surprise development, Joachim Gauck, German president, who is widely viewed as a liberal, on Sunday launched a thinly veiled attack on Ms Merkel’s handling of the crisis, saying: “Our reception capacity is limited even when it has not yet been worked out where these limits lie.” Cash handouts of €143 a month for a single person are seen as making Germany more desirable for migrants than other European states. Refugees will instead receive non-cash benefits, such as food vouchers. Cash payments for living expenses will largely be stopped for asylum-seekers living in official reception centres. [Financial Times, 9-29]
Croatia blames part of the current refugee crisis on Germany, claiming that Germany invited the refugees to come but now cannot handle them all. [Empathy and Angst in Germany Transformed by Refugees].
Given the massive number of refugees flowing into Europe, all countries, not just Germany, have started to limit the flow of refugees across their borders (Washington Post, 9-14). The Independent
The strongest opposition to helping more refugees came from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland. This is largely driven by the political value of being anti-immigrant, though Poland eventually agreed to take even more refugees than it was originally allocated.
Switzerland has been relatively (like Germany) more open to receiving refugees and has even explored the possibility of housing 50,000 in retired nuclear bunkers.
Sweden has also been relatively supportive of the refugees and may host tens of thousands in tents, though there is also a right wing backlash developing there.
We already know that Hungary sealed its borders, accelerating the construction of a border fence (Hungary now claims to have completed the fence], closing a key point of border entry), and declared a state of emergency.
It was also reported that Hungary was forcing refugees to scramble for food and keeping them in cages. On September 22, Hungary passed a law allowing police to use rubber bullets, tear gas grenades, and rubber bullets against refugees. [Inside the Abysmal refugee camps in Hungary].
The closing of the Hungarian border to refugees means that they are now traveling through Croatia and other routes to access northern European Union countries. [Closing the Back Door to Europe]. Recent reports indicate 85,000 have crossed through Croatia since Hungary closed its border.
And since Hungary even sealed its border with Croatia, it has forced thousands of refugees to rely on Slovenia for passage onto Western Europe. This will likely strand thousands of refugees in the cold.
The EU is facing record arrivals with more than 47,500 people in the last week entering Slovenia, which has a population of just two million, and 48,000 entering Greece, which has a population of 11 million, according to official figures. With winter looming, Amnesty International on Saturday warned of a humanitarian disaster if migrants are stranded at borders. “Every day counts,” Juncker told Bild. Without action, “we will soon witness families dying wretchedly in chilly rivers in the Balkans.” [France24.com, 10/24]
[As a side note, there is an interesting post here about how it is unfair to single out Hungary for its treatment of refugees when most other countries, especially those without Departments of Homeland Security, would have acted the same way. It also states that the response from “civil society” has been strong and positive. [And:How Hungary’s small Muslim community is helping refugees]].
In mid-September, some refugees were detained for attempting to cross the border and others have had water cannons shot at them. Other refugees started a hunger strike in response to the conditions. As it is now a crime to cross the border, new courts have been set-up in Hungary to try refugees who illegally cross the border [US News & World Report].
On September 22, Croatia closed part of the border with Serbia, stranding many of the refugees. Although this is expected to be temporary, it is the first time Croatia closed its borders to refugees attempting to reach the EU. Thirty thousand migrants have entered Croatia from Serbia over the past week. This has caused tension between Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia.
There is some recent evidence says that Hungary is allowing refugees to be bused from the border to Austria and onward into the European Union, and there is new evidence that Hungary is removing some of the razor wire fence from its border with Slovenia.
And just as Hungary has reduced the razor wire fencing on its border with Slovenia, recent evidence suggests that Croatia is opening its border with Serbia back up. This is all part of a general approach that emphasizes countries working together to manage the refugee crisis.
Though not in proportion to the European response, Serbia has substantially contributed to providing assistance to refugees pouring in from the Middle East.
Adam Lebor, September 29, 2015, Newsweek, http://www.newsweek.com/2015/10/09/europe-refugee-crisis-fans-old-balkan-tensions-377714.html DOA: 9-29-15 Europe’s Refugee Crisis Stirs Bad Blood Among Old Enemies in the Balkans
The real winners in the Balkan crisis are the Serbs, who have struggled since the end of the regime of Serbian nationalist strongman Slobodan Milosevic to persuade the world that their country is ready to become a full partner in the liberal European project. Serbia has long been a key staging point on the overland route north from Turkey, through Greece and Macedonia. More than 200,000 refugees and migrants have crossed into Hungary this year, most of them entering through the Serbian border. But the contrast in their reception has been stark.
In Belgrade, Serbia, like Budapest, makeshift transit camps have sprung up around transit hubs. In Budapest, municipal authorities provided transit zones with rudimentary facilities, but it was left to volunteer groups to provide food, water and clothes. In Belgrade, the authorities established an information center for refugees in the city center, co-financed by ADRA Germany, a relief agency, the U.N. refugee agency and the local government. Serbian authorities also banned anti-refugee protests by far-right groups. Collective memories of the mass displacement of the Yugoslav wars have also opened people’s hearts; many Serbs themselves are refugees from Croatia and Bosnia. When Hungarian police used water cannons and tear gas on refugees rioting on the Serbian side of the frontier, Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian prime minister, said Hungary was guilty of “brutal” and “non-European” behavior.
Serbia’s handling of the crisis has changed perceptions of the country and drawn praise from EU officials, says Braca Grubacic, a Belgrade analyst and publisher of the VIP Daily News Report, a daily news and analysis digest. “For the first time in a long time, Serbia is regarded within the EU as the good guys. The Serbian authorities presented a normal and human face to the world with the way they handled this. We had the migrants here for months; we treated them decently. We did not complain, and we did not demand enormous amounts of money.”
Yet as the crisis shows no signs of abating, Serbian hospitality too may have its limits. Right now, most of the refugees and migrants making their way to the richer countries of Western Europe pass through Serbia. The country, with its Muslim and Albanian minorities, is more cosmopolitan than its central European neighbors. But should a substantial number of these people decide to stay in Serbia attitudes could change very quickly.
Opposition groups in the Czech Republic want a national referendum to determine if the CR will comply with the EU’s ordered distribution of refugees and are seeking a no confidence vote in the the current government over the issue.
There has been significant tension on the border between Bulgaria and Turkey due to the refugees. Yesterday (10-16), an Afghan refugee was shot dead by Bulgarian border guards.
As mentioned earlier, Poland was originally strongly opposed to taking more refugees under the 120,000 agreement, but did eventually agree to take it’s share under the redistribution.
When asking European Union members to accept a set quota of refugees was first proposed in May, nearly all of the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe came out strongly against the idea as an attack on their sovereignty. But by Wednesday, despite continued heated rhetoric from across a region that has long exhibited an anti-immigrant strain, the band of resistance had shrunk considerably. Poland, to the unhappy surprise of several of its allies in the region, decided to go along with Germany and other Western nations in approving the quotas on Tuesday, despite strong resistance from Polish voters and a bitter parliamentary campaign in which the longtime governing party, Civic Platform, is highly vulnerable. [NYT, September 23]
As discussed above, refugees in Croatia and Serbia who are trying to reach Austria and Western Europe can no longer pass through Hungary after Hungary sealed its border, leaving them to rely on Slovenia. But Slovenia will register the refugees and will not let more in until those who are registered leave the country, creating hardships, especially in the cold. On Saturday, 5,000 people poured into the tiny country after being forced west, extending an already brutal journey for refugees seeking passage to Austria, Germany, or elsewhere. Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar announced he would dispatch the army to aid police in dealing with the sudden influx. “We are going to focus even more on safety and security and order so our country can function normally,” Cerar said. “If destination countries begin adopting stricter measures at the border, Slovenia will follow suit.” One key difference between Slovenia’s approach and that of Hungary, which saw nearly 400,000 people pass through it this year, is that it will be registering the refugees. Government officials say they can only allow 2,500 people to enter each day and won’t accept new arrivals until the previous ones leave. This could mean long waits for refugees for thousands in nearby Croatia and Serbia. [Chandler]
Slovenia has deployed its army to help with the crisis.
Britain originallywill take 15,000 more, and now 22,000 more, but only from camps in Lebanon, Jordan, or Turkey. The first arrived today (9-22). Britain plans to use funds from its foreign aid budget to cover the costs. Australian Senate leader Eric Abetiz says Australia should take more and says Christians, as the most persecuted minority in the Middle East (his claim) should be given priority. [As Europe fills with refugees, Britain goes its own way, Britain deeply divided over influx of refugees, UK not taking its fair share of refugees]
France will take 24,000 and is is supporting resettlement.
There are, of course, other countries in Europe, but these are main players in the issue.
Denmark’s government has been openly hostile toward the refugees, but the people have been more supportive.
The Response of the European Union (EU) as a Body
Resolving this politically at the EU level will be difficult. Most of the refugees are headed to Europe and only Germany, and to some extent, Sweden, have really show any interested in taking in a substantial number of new refugees.
Not only is there growing political opposition to accepting more refugees in many countries, but opposition to resettling more refugees by some European countries, particularly eastern European countries, threatens to split the EU.
A rift over Europe’s response to the sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees is leading some in Brussels to voice fears for the future of the European Union. The 28-nation bloc is torn between solidarity and security as governments struggle to cope with an influx of people fleeing war and oppression in Syria, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, which is fuelling a political backlash in many countries. “What was unimaginable before is possible today – that is the disintegration of the European project,” Frans Timmermans, the European Commission vice-president coordinating EU action on the migration crisis, told the Friends of Europe think-tank. Mutual mistrust among EU governments has reached alarming levels, say old Brussels hands who are used to frequent past crises. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging EU countries to open their doors and their hearts to refugees, other leaders see the top priorities as controlling the EU’s external borders to stem arrivals, deporting more people denied asylum and paying third countries to keep refugees on their soil…. A stampede of refugees heading to Germany across his country prompted Orban to seal Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia, setting off a chain reaction of beggar-thy-neighbour actions by overstretched governments. That has stranded tens of thousands in inhuman conditions in the Western Balkans as winter nears. Support for far-right parties fanning fears of foreigners, Islam and terrorism is soaring in France, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. British Eurosceptics are using the crisis to buttress their arguments for voting to leave the EU in a forthcoming referendum. Governments in central and eastern Europe are resisting demands from Berlin and Brussels to admit mandatory quotas of refugees. A swing to the nationalist right in Poland is likely to harden that front. At home, Merkel faces growing pressure within her own conservative party to close German borders and limit the number of migrants. Her government has cut benefits for asylum seekers and is speeding up the removal of rejected applicants. The crisis has also opened up divergences among EU institutions, with the European Commission under Jean-Claude Juncker treating it primarily as a long-term humanitarian challenge to integrate refugees. By contrast, European Council President Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who chairs EU summits, calls the wave of migrants a “threat” to be “stemmed” or “contained”, notably by paying Turkey to keep Syrian refugees on its soil. [First Post, October 25]
Europe originally made some minimal progress in dealing with the refugees. In September, Germany pushed an EU-wide deal on quotas and on September 22, the European voted to distribute 120,000 refugees across Europe.
European Union ministers approved a plan on Tuesday that would compel member countries to take in 120,000 migrants seeking refuge on the Continent — but only after overruling four countries in Central Europe. The plan to apportion the migrants, still only a small fraction of those flowing into Europe, was approved by home affairs and interior ministers of the member countries after a vigorous debate. In a departure from normal procedures that emphasize consensus, particularly on questions of national sovereignty, the ministers took a formal vote. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia voted no. Finland abstained. New York Times The plan will be discussed further on Wednesday by leaders from across the 28-member bloc, who will gather here for an emergency summit meeting. It is not clear if the dissenting countries, which have vigorously opposed mandatory quotas, will comply. The crisis has tested the limits of Europe’s ability to forge consensus on one of the most divisive issues to confront the union since the fall of communism. It has set right-wing politicians, including those who govern Hungary, against pan-European humanitarians, who have portrayed the crisis in stark moral terms.
Of course, with 6,000 entering per day, this is only 20 days worth of refugees, so there is plenty of room on the first Pro topic for substantially greater assistance. The status quo only addresses a “small fraction” of the refugees, and as of November 3rd, only 116 refugees have been resettled!
This article explains the math behind the distribution.
Slovakia has threatened to leave the EU over its response.
There are calls for the EU to ramp up its refugee assistance before winter sets in. The winter could mean more death and sickness for the refugees.
In a somewhat positive step, EU nations are offering to support Turkey in order provide better living conditions and to stem the flow of the refugees, particularly hazardous flows.
The European Union (EU) has offered Turkey a possible $3.41 billion in aid and the prospect of easier travel visas and “re-energized” talks on joining the bloc in return for its help stemming the flow of refugees to Europe. EU leaders at a summit in Brussels said early on Friday that they agreed on an “action plan” with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to cooperate on improving the lives of two million Syrian refugees in Turkey and encouraging them to stay put. They also agreed to coordinate border controls to slow the influx of refugees crossing Turkey from Asia. Already hosting more than two million Syrians, Turkey has become a launching point for refugees — among them Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and others — who set out to make it to Europe via dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossings. Since January, about 710,000 people have crossed into Europe — a record number, according to Frontex, the EU border agency. About 3,000 people have died while making the dangerous journey. Though the plan put no figure on “substantial and concrete new funds” the EU would offer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the figure of 3 billion euros, or $3.41 billion, which EU officials said Ankara had requested, had been discussed and seem reasonable. “Our intensified meetings with Turkish leaders … in the last couple of weeks were devoted to one goal: stemming the migratory flows that go via Turkey to the EU. The action plan is a major step in this direction,” said summit chairman Donald Tusk, expressing “cautious optimism.” In formal conclusions agreed by the 28 national leaders at a meeting that ended after midnight, Turkey was offered an accelerated path to giving its citizens visa-free travel to the EU, provided it met previously agreed upon conditions.
In Germany, lawmakers on Thursday approved legislation designating Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia “safe countries,” speeding up the possible return of migrants not deemed eligible for international protection to those nations. In Belgium, asylum seekers from Baghdad are no longer automatically granted protection, according to a measure passed in October. Also, the Netherlands government has cut some benefits to refugees, prioritizing other applicants’ social housing requests. [Al Jazeera]
As part of the agreement to retain more refugees and enforce controls at its border, Turkey wants greater ease of travel for its citizens in the EU.
And, many European citizens are very supportive of the refugees. 280,000 have signed a petition encouraging the EU to support the refugees.
The European Commission also plans to build a refugee crisis center in Greece.
The Reaction of Non-European Countries
While many outside of Europe have been critical of the reaction of European countries to crisis, only few countries outside of Europe have been willing to accept a limited number of migrants.
Chile and Venezuela will take a limited number refugees.
Recently (9-9), Australia decided to take 12,000 more Syrian refugees.
Iceland originally offered to take 50, but is under pressure from its public to do more. Australia will take more, at least from Iraq and Syria.
Canada has agreed to take in 25,000 more refugees. Israel will not take them. Canada’s Prime Minister, Steven Harper, continues to defend Canada’s approach.
The US has only taken 1,500 refugees, though it originally planned on increasing that number to between 5,000 and 8,000. Twelve days ago (9-10) Obama raised the number of refugees the US will accept to 10,000, though they we originally count against the existing 70,000 quota, but Kerry recently (9-20) announced the US will now accept 85,000 in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017, with most of the 30,000 increase (Munich welcomed 30,000 in one weekend) being in Syrian refugees. Donald Trump has called for taking in more. Republicans fear that taking more will present opportunities for terrorists to infiltrate the US.
The wealthy Gulf states, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea have not offered to take any refugees.
Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places, while nearly two million refugees have been taken in by neighbouring Turkey, and 1.2 million in Lebanon. “I’m most indignant over the Arab countries who are rolling in money and who only take very few refugees,” Danish Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen told the Washington Post last Friday.”Countries like Saudi Arabia. It’s completely scandalous.” Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have also offered zero resettlement places, according to Amnesty International. (9 News).
Though Russia was on this list, today (9-9), they said they would accept refugees.
Japan has announced they will increase financial assistance to the refugees but will not take any refugees because it wants to look out for its own citizens.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are still refusing to take refugees and they are not part of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
In early September (9-6), the Pope called for all Catholic churches to take in refugees, leading the way himself by saying that the Vatican would host refugee families.
Referring to the “tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees that flee death in conflict and hunger and are on a journey of hope,” Francis said, according to Vatican Radio, “the Gospel calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned.” He specifically asked that the European bishops support the effort. New York Times
He recently (9-24) challenged the US Congress to accept more refugees, urging the world to follow the Golden Rule in its treatment of refugees.
Though many consider refugees to be a burden, others find that they are the most enterprising people.
One consideration that has been voice with accepting refugees is the risk of terrorism. Some claim that 1:50 refugees could be an ISIS terrorist and US Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson have expressed similar concerns [GOP’s Carson says no]. Even the Pope has warned of the potential threat.
“Migrant” and “refugee” —
A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.
There is a debate about who is responsible for the crisis.
Some argue that the US is responsible for two reasons.
One, the US could have intervened in Syria years ago. This is certainly a debate, but Stephen Walt argues it likely would have failed.