Europe is currently in the midst of one of the worst migration crises in recent history and the situation will only worsen. Just weeks ago, a ship off the coast of Libya, carrying nearly 1,000 illegal migrant passengers, sank. Many of the migrants died when the boat capsized; however, the total number of deceased will be almost impossible to verify. In the largest wave of migration since the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and end of the Yugoslavia war, it is evident that the European “region’s refugee management system is broken.”
Many of the migrants hail from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Poverty, instability and civil war are the major culprits for the migration crisis. Another factor causing such a stir is attacks by armed militant groups. The conditions in these two regions, arguably the poorest and most unstable in the world, have created such a sense of desperation among its inhabitants, the migrants are willing to risk death by crossing the Mediterranean Sea for the mere hope that they might find a better life in Europe.
As a consequence, European countries are becoming “overwhelmed” by the massive number of migrants invading European shores and are “having trouble assimilating these people into society.” Roughly 13,330 migrants arrived in April alone and the death toll will only continue to rise as more and more migrants attempt to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea this summer. The countries receiving the brunt of the number of migrants are the ones on the Mediterranean coast, mostly Italy and France. While the migrants enter Europe through the “porous borders” in these entry nations, their target destinations are not these entry countries. The migrants aim for more northern European countries with stronger economies. Germany, Europe’s strongest economy and a country with a generous welfare system, is the most popular destination. It absorbed 173,000 migrants in 2014 and has taken in more than any other country in Europe. This fact that has caused some resentment in Germany toward other European countries as they feel others are not doing their part.
European leaders are confounded on exactly how to proceed. Should European leaders employ a union-wide approach to fixing the broken system or should each EU country be responsible for its own solution? Or would a better approach be to address the root of the problems in the countries that are sending the highest number of migrants? As leaders discuss possible remedies to the crisis, it becomes evident the solution will involve more than just one approach. European leaders then need to adopt a two-pronged plan: concentrate on fixing the holes in the migration system on the EU-level but also address the root causes such as armed militant groups, economic hardships and consistent instability that plague these countries.
Europe as a whole has not done enough to address the migration crisis either at its roots or internally. For example, EU law allows a 6 month time frame for processing asylum applications. The current time frame for this process, however, is much longer and little has been done to rectify that problem. Further, reception centers for the migrants are deteriorating, indicating a lack of care or sense of urgency about the ongoing crisis. European leaders are also hesitant to intervene in the countries where migrants begin their journeys because of lessons from the NATO-led Libyan intervention in 2011 and decreasing defense budgets. The EU is again “being blamed for less than rapid action” and has not done enough to curb the crisis.
Some leaders are calling for a more regional approach to the migrant crisis. However, that still leaves some uncertainty as to whether the EU-regional response should fix any and all holes in the migration system or if European should address the root problems of the countries that are sending the migrants. A regional approach is absolutely crucial, but a two-pronged solution is required. The European Union must employ a strategy that both addresses the holes in the migration system in Europe but also intervene in the countries that are producing the most migrants.
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, recognized that Europe will have to look for a solution beyond itself when she stated, “We need to continue to work on the root causes of migration and most of all on the instability of an area that is broader and broader, from Iraq to Libya.” She believes the EU should intervene in the migrant’s home countries to assist in ending civil wars, halt attacks by militant groups, provide aid to alleviate some of the economic hardship, and address political and social instability. By addressing the root of the problems, the citizens of these countries will be less inclined to leave their home as conditions will have improved, their economic prospects would be higher, their government would be less corrupt, and their security would be guaranteed. As such, an EU effort to address the sources of the migration crisis is needed.
The other part of the solution is to remove the paralysis by European leaders on how to fix the holes in the system; they must concentrate on the system itself. It is obvious the migrant system within Europe is flawed and new policies are required. EU leaders must focus on how the migrants are successfully reaching European shores and how the system can be improved internally. A regional approach involves all EU countries working together to both alleviate the root problems in the countries from which the migrants hail and to take craft a plan on how to fix the migration system as these efforts will ultimately make Europe more secure.