The Migrant Crisis in Europe: An appraisal and way forward

Migrant Crisis, Europe, Civil War, Syria
Written by Osama Khurshid


The European Union can be traced back to the 1940’s when British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill envisaged a United States of Europe. However, Churchill had no idea how powerful an institution it would become by the late 20th century.
The formation of the EU came just over a decade after the Second World War, 1957. For the EU’s originators, the EU was a way of reducing national hostility, resentment and competition, which had driven the continent into war. The European Coal and Steel Community began to unite European countries not just economically but politically in order to prolong peace. The members then consisted of just six states: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. Now fifty years in the European Union consists of twenty-eight member states.

The European Union (EU) is a supranational organization that is currently composed of 28 European countries. The member countries have decided to adopt uniform laws on a number of issues related to their economies, finances, and security. The EU has a long history and its name has changed several times. The European Union is the name of the organization for the countries that have decided to co-operate on a great number of areas, ranging from a single market economy, foreign policies, same sets of environmental laws, mutual recognition of school diplomas, the exchange of criminal records and much more.

Despite the fact that the European Union has had many achievements, it also had many crises in history. It is still dealing with the European debt crisis or the European sovereign debt crisis, a prolonged crisis which started in 2009 and the Union still struggles with it. Although the European debt crisis is one of the regional crises which has impacted European countries specifically; there are other socio-political issues of European Union which have had an outrageous impact on the entire world. An example of this is the European Migration Crises.

Refugees and Migrants are coming into Europe from faltering and fumbling states specifically from Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Europe has been declared as the most dangerous place for irregular migration by “The International Organization for Migration”. Despite the fact that the EU has a very decent approach towards rights of migrants and refuges, under the current scenario the approach towards the migrant influx in Europe has become very volatile. The collective approach of the European Union countries is more inclined towards securing their borders rather than rights of refugees and migrants. On the other hand nationalist parties have concerns, regarding their rights and Islamic terrorism which is imminent across the continent. So, it is still unclear whether the EU is ready to take migrants or it is looking for immigration reforms.


Migrants and Refugees:

An asylum seeker is defined as a person fleeing persecution or conflict, and therefore seeking international protection. Under the 1951 Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees; a refugee is an asylum seeker whose claim has been approved. However, the UN considers migrants fleeing war or persecution to be refugees, even before they officially receive asylum. An economic migrant, by contrast, is a person whose primary motivation for leaving his or her home country is economic gain. The term “migrant” is seen as an umbrella term for all three groups. It may be said that all refugees are migrants, but not all migrants are refugees.

Migrants and Refugees came from Africa, South Asia and Middle East. The political unrest and interchange as well as regime change of Arab Spring has created chaos in the Middle East. It all started in 2011, when thousands of migrants came over from Tunisia to the Italian Island of Lampedusa because of the Arab Spring. The Sub Saharan Africans who had migrated to Libya in the past decades, felt intimidated in the post Qaddafi period. Now-a-days influx of migrants from Syria is prominent due to civil war in Syria and there are contingencies that this influx will loom more in the continent.

According to UN High Commissioner on Refugees, more than 320,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean and entered the EU. This rate is eight times higher than that of 2013. Moreover, many people also cross in-continent via land, though the numbers are uncertain. According to a census, 39 percent of migrants are Syrians which are running from civil war going on for four years, whereas 11 percent are Afghanis which are running from the war against Taliban and 7 percent are Eritreans fleeing because of forced labor. Terrorism and militancy have halted the economies of the states such as Sudan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Pakistan. Due to this reason, people have started migrating to Europe from these countries, which ultimately increases the influx of migrants and disturbs the social stabilization of continent.

Europe is witnessing a mixture of migrants, some of them are asylum seekers, while others are economic migrants. This is called the mixed-migration phenomena, whereby asylum seekers and economic migrants travel together and can overlap each other. This phenomenon is usually a gray area because of overlapping and is frequently worsened by inconsistent methods, due to which migrant applications are often processed across the twenty eight countries of Europe.

Threats to Europe:
According to the reports of IOM approximately 464,000 migrants came into Europe in nine months of 2015. Thirty years ago, Europeans themselves welcomed immigrants to promote multiculturalism for a diverse society and as a solution to the European problems. But, some of the European orthodox argued that the demographic revolution is changing the face of Europe. Now a days growing number of immigrants are blamed for European Problems. Some mainstream politicians like British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, criticize multiculturalism and publicly speak out about its outrageous effects. The denouncing of multiculturalism has fueled up the triumph of populist parties and far right parties, from the National Front in France to the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands. And in the most life-threatening acts, there are cases like Anders Behring Breivik’s homicidal rampage on the Norwegian island of Utoya in July 2011.

Multiculturalism critics argue that the EU has allowed unnecessary migrants into Europe without integration among member states, which has battered social cohesion, weakened national identities and exacerbated the trust of people. On the other hand those who support multiculturalism argue that the problem is not diversity but racism. The truth about multiculturalism is far more complex, the debate about it has often devolved into sophistry. Multiculturalism has become a proxy for other social and political issues: immigration, identity, political disenchantment, working-class decline. Different countries, moreover, have followed distinct paths. The United Kingdom has sought to give various ethnic communities an equal stake in the political system. Germany has encouraged immigrants to pursue separate lives.


EU Collective Response:

EU states now have a different response towards the influx of thousands of migrants. Since the Euro crises of 2009, they have been more concerned about their national interests rather than continental stakes. The EU block is now facing an increased polarized political change; anti-immigrant and nationalist parties which have a rigid stance over migrant crisis, are ruling the EU states. States like Denmark and France also have reservations for taking immigrants due to security concerns; they show reluctance in accepting migrants from North Africa and Middle East in wake of the Paris and Copenhagen shooting incidents in early 2015.

According to Charles Kupchan “Europe has historically embraced more ethnic than civic approaches to nationhood, unlike the United States, and that is part of the reason immigration is proving so difficult.”

The vulnerability of migrant crisis has increased because many European countries have integrated minorities with the majority into a social society. Most of the immigrants come from Muslim states, and the relationship between Muslim migrants and majority of the Europeans is not so good. Explaining this point the leaders from Eastern European states like Poland, Slovakia, Hungry and Czech Republic have manipulated their policies for not entertaining Muslim migrants. But on other hand there is some positive response from some European states. Almost three thousand migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean while crossing. Moreover, the image of the neatly dressed three-year old washed up on a Turkish beach triggered a fresh surge of anguish. Through these events, generosity in people is self-evident. These responses however, are on domestic grounds. Whereas, there is noticeable continental divide regarding migrant crises in Europe.

The Inter-Governmentalism school of thought promotes “the role of the national government in the European integration process and argues that integration is driven by the interests and action of nation states”

The EU states only coordinate but do not integrate with each other. This means that the European Union has pooling of sovereignty rather than a full-fledged autonomy. Every country has its own interests and it behaves according to it. In case of Germany, it has emerged as the leading state in immigrants’ crises and announced to process 800,000 asylum applications in 2015. Germany comes on top in the EU countries for accepting the most asylums petitions. According to the open census in Germany 88% people agreed to help refugees and some of them were already helping.

Some economic experts reveal that Germany and Sweden have open policies for asylum, because they have their economic interest, low birth rates and ageing population. These migrants could prove to increase the labor force, workers, tax payers, and consumers, and hence boost the economy of these countries.

Sweden comes in second after Germany for asylum grants. France had also been an ally to Germany before the Paris attacks of 2015. However, after the incident took place, France closed its borders to refuges. It is important to question one’s self about what refugees would gain from making themselves unwelcomed by committing acts of violence against the host country. With these Western Giants of Europe other states had also started to bandwagon and help refugees.

Some countries however, remain resistant. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s authoritarian leader once said that he understood the demographic challenge posed by Hungary’s population decline, adding that he ruled out two kinds of remedy-cloning and immigration. Orban now promises to cut off the flow of migrants from the east by extending a razor-wire fence on Hungary’s border with Serbia. Other eastern and southern members of the EU, finding themselves on the front lines of the refugee crisis, share Hungary’s instincts. Bulgaria is also building a border fence to keep out migrants. Slovakia’s leader has said that he would accept only non-Muslim refugees. And the same sentiment is heard in Poland. All suspect that Germany’s generous instincts act as a magnet for further waves of migrants who will use the front-line countries as transit routes.

The biggest giant of Europe, which is UK, has had an edifying response regarding the immigrant crisis.  UK president David Cameroon complained that there are migrant swarms which are the biggest threat to UK.  The UK government has responded to the migrant crisis and is granting up to twenty thousand asylum petitions by 2020. The implied acceptance rate of four thousand per year is a drop in the ocean.
Like many other EU countries, lately Macedonia has installed a barrier in the form of a fence in order to halt the influx of migrants. This movement of Macedonia and other countries has left a hallow dint on Schengen Zone, which means there will be no free movement in the Schengen Zone. The dream of Schengen Zone started vanishing when Austria announced that it was to erect a metal fence along its border with Slovenia. A 2.3-mile barrier was built – the first fence between two Schengen-area countries where movement is supposed to be unrestricted.


Paris Attacks as a Catalyst Event:

The Paris attacks have transformed Europe’s migration crisis into a security debate, spurring calls for a clampdown on free movement across borders, and putting proponents of an open door for refugees on the defensive.

In any unsolved crime the first question asked is who benefits by motive with an actual means to execute the crime? If we shed some light on some events like what 9/11 in the US, 7/7 in UK, the 3/11 train attack in Spain, the Hebdo Paris attack last January, and now this latest Paris encore reenactment part two, critical discourse analysis lightens up the fact that all of these tragic false flag events ultimately secure the interests of the vital global elite in multiple ways.

Paris massacres were highly organized, committed by heavily armed, closely monitored terrorist professionals, unleashed onto an unsuspecting, culturally diverse group of young Paris victims. The coordinated attacks seem to carry all the earmarks as state of the art false flag terrorism having had lots of previous practice, most notably the Paris Charlie Hebdo edition. But the growing anomalies stacking up once again turn out to be no different from their predecessors.
If we critically evaluate the language and discourse of France and how it makes up the rhetoric in order to secure its interests, it would be interesting to analyze the French President François Hollande’s speech right after the Paris attacks. He stated that, “It is horrifying, a state of emergency will be declared, and the second measure will be the closure of national borders.”

So in order to stop the migrant flux into EU, analysis reveals that French establishment was involved in the ruthless Paris attacks. Another reason is that before the attacks, the French President Francois Hollande was in favor of taking refugees but he was losing electoral support in France. Where on the other hand, the Far right National Front party’s regional leader for southeastern France, Marion Marechal-Le Pen was getting support from majority of the people on the anti-immigrant rhetoric. In order to sabotage the political activities which were solely based on anti-immigrants policies, there was a need of a catalyst event which could trigger a U-turn in policies of French establishment in order to get public support.  This is not limited to France, a recent survey in Germany has shown that 48 percent have said they would not like to see Merkel continue as Chancellor in the next administration, against the 44 percent who would be happy to see her stay.

Mrs. Merkel has faced considerable criticism for her refusal to back down on opening doors for the immigration policy, and for stating that Syrian migrants in particular will automatically be granted asylum. So, the migration crisis is basically damaging the social fabrication of EU and there are contingencies that there may be a continental divide due to this crisis.


A ten-point plan on migration adopted by the EU in April 2015 includes calls for a “systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers.” However, many critics argue that this focus on disrupting smuggling operations fails to recognize the larger “push factors” driving migration to the region: poverty and conflict across large swaths of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia that have left many with no recourse but to flee.

Quota plans and naval operations may help the EU member states to better manage this crisis, but experts caution that these proposals alone will not stem the tide of migrants. For that, European leaders must address the root causes of migration: helping to broker an end to Syria’s civil war, restoring stability to Libya, and increasing aid to sub-Saharan Africa. Barring a political solution to these regional crises, Europe will continue to struggle with migrant inflows.

In addition to taking in larger numbers of asylum seekers, many experts say the EU and global powers must also provide more aid to Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, which have borne the primary responsibility for Syrian refugees. According to the UNHCR, 1.9 million Syrians have taken refuge in Turkey, 1.1 million in Lebanon, and 630,000 in Jordan since the start of the conflict in 2011.This influx has altered the demographics and economies of these host countries, which are now struggling to provide basic food and shelter due to funding shortages. Since 2011, the United States has spent more than $4 billion on Syria humanitarian assistance, but has only given refuge to 1,500 Syrians. In September 2015, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States would accept an additional ten thousand Syrians in 2016 and an additional thirty thousand global refugees over the next two years.

About the author

Osama Khurshid

is currently is currently working as Assistant Director. He is an MPhil Scholar at National Defence University Islamabad. He has previously worked in NDU’s research think tank ISSRA in 2015. His area of interest is Defence Studies and Foreign Policy of United States, and he writes on regional contemporary issues. His research focuses on changing world orders.

Leave a Comment

8 + 15 =