London—Hungary started rounding up migrants today after the European Union failed to agree on mandatory quotas for resettling refugees, sinking hopes of a concerted effort to ease the crisis soon. On Sunday, Germany shut its borders to stem a flood of migrants who hoped to take advantage of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcome mat for refugees from Syria. Other countries are following.
Germany is calling its border controls a temporary stoppage. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted each EU country to accept a mandatory quota of refugees. Eastern European countries openly opposed the idea and others were at best lukewarm. The United Kingdon wants to set its own limit of 20,000 over five years. and France has a plan to accept perhaps 12,000 over two years.
Meanwhile, Austria, Slovakia and Netherlands shut their borders. Free travel across Europe, one of the signature achievements of the European Union, is on hold.
The problem of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea or entering Europe through the Balkans has been going on for some time and this was the third EU meeting called to bring order out of chaos. Voluntary acceptance and naval blockades of the Mediterranean haven’t worked. The right-wing government of Hungary began to build a wall to keep the Syrians out. Austria took groups in, but the migrants appear to prefer wealthy and welfare-laden Germany as a destination.
Merkel didn’t expect Syrians, many of whom are already refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, to flood north seeking more comfortable confines. Last week, in the face of criticism from political allies and screams of alarm from towns hosting refugees, she took a tougher line. The refugees can’t expect all to stay in Germany, Merkel said.
Her problem, and the issue for all Europe, is that this is not a usual issue of refugees fleeing warfare. Some are taking the opportunity to do what they always wanted–to get to Europe. Most, however, are fleeing not only five years of conflict but also a failed state that is showing no signs of recomposing. Decomposing is more like it. This war can go on a long time (the Lebanese civil war, which ended in 1989, went on for 15 years). Chances are, there will be no Syria to go back to when and if the war ends, only, at best, a bunch of embittered enclaves likely ruled by warlords.
So a new model is needed–refugee camps for the long term, and not just in Europe, with planning for the possible displacement and resettling of millions in a controlled manner. Otherwise, Europe itself will be faced with an embittered domestic population that will regard an endless stream of newcomers as detrimental to their own well-being. That backlash is already happening and is reflected in the EU decision.
Of course, a quick end to the war would be better.
Merkel’s tough talk.
A global look at the problem.
Human Rights Watch suggests Persian Gulf countries take in some Syrians (no chance of that).