Updated: Apr 15
While 700,000 refugees wait in chaos on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the hope of reaching Europe, confusion reigns on the other side. There is a profound lack of means, ideas, and laws to safely distribute these desperate migrants among the 28 member states of the European Union.
Furthermore, among the authorities, there is a clear inability to distinguish between refugees, economic migrants, and even criminals. Which of these migrants are in search of employment, and which of them are fanatics seeking to fight against the Western infidels?
When these immigrants are accepted, many countries do not possess the ability to inte-grate them within their own societies. Often, immigrants end up confined in camps and ghettos. Many of them face severe problems created by their own cultures, which are fre-quently so very different from Western cultures and may even be antagonistic to Euro-pean principles.
For example, in Italy, around 70,000 immigrants arrived in 2015, but in 2017 this total was reduced to a bit more than 23,000. However, even though the numbers have shrunk, the general sense of alarm surrounding the immigrant issue has not lessened. The psychological impact has not followed the numbers.
In fact, the opposite is the case. The issue of absorbing immigrants into Europe has continued growing, creating new politics and societies, and affecting the continent’s entire future.
The issue of real refugees vs. economic migrants still raises overwhelming questions, and the problems are still immense. For this reason, it is worthwhile examining this issue, along with the concerns of the Western world.
The psychological pressure on Europe that has caused a secessionist trend among sev-eral nation-states of the European Union has overwhelmed the fact that the number of people illegally crossing into Europe actually dropped last year to its lowest level in five years, while there has been a spike in the number reaching Spain.
An estimated 150,000 people entered the European Union through irregular crossings in 2018, according to Frontex, the border and coast guard agency. That is the lowest total since 2013, and it is 92 percent below the peak of 2015.
After 2018, Italy’s new government and its attitude toward immigration is the basic rea-son for the dramatic fall of the previous government, which failed to solve the issue.
The migrants taking the central Mediterranean route from Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia to Italy may be a little more than 23,000, representing an 80 percent drop from last year. How this reduction was achieved requires a great deal of discussion and raises the ques-tion of how the flow of immigrants can be slowed or halted — and if it should be stopped.
After all, the human tendency is to help a person in need or distress, in danger, hungry, or seeking protection for his/her children.
The Arab Spring
A crisis emerged in Europe, reaching its peak in 2008 when the Arab Spring unexpectedly turned into a source of severe concern as an uninterrupted flow of displaced migrants surged into the continent.
The year 2008 was the year of the American credit crunch, when the large U.S. invest-ment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed. It was the biggest financial crisis the world had ever seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
On August 8, 2008, another critical event occurred when Russia invaded Georgia. Fol-lowing this, in 2014, a revolution occurred in Ukraine against the backdrop of that country’s association agreement with the European Union, where Russia also got inv-olved and eventually attempted to annex the Crimea and Sevastopol.
All of this clearly showed that, after the Balkan war, the conflicts in Europe were far from over.
Amid this global chaos, Europe witnessed another split when Germany attempted to remind its European partners to abide by their economic promises, while the other European countries contested German supremacy. All EU members (including the drama-tic example of Greece) had to submit to a request to comply with the ideas of austerity, tax payments, and focusing on their public debt.
At first, the problem of the borders was not raised. Every EU country had its own problems, and each one blamed the others. Germany blamed everybody else, and everybody else blamed Chancellor Merkel.
But the problem became more blatant when refugees began to flood the Mediterranean shores, as well as the headlines in an impoverished Europe, where unemployment is rampant, and the future of its youth is uncertain.
The impoverished middle classes of Europe suddenly became a new actor that changed the continent’s narrative.
Universalism was the original idea behind post-nationalism, the main ideology of the European Union. It was inspired by the dismissal of the nationalism that had dominated Europe for over a century and brought cataclysmic world wars. The aspiration was to diminish ethnic, religious, and geographic borders, and replace them with vast, transnational alternatives.
But the post-national-fraternal Europe, whose leader is Angela Merkel, who served as a minister at the age of 37 in reunited Germany’s first government, was pushed toward a deep crisis just by the questioning of the borders issue in relation to immigration.
Many European countries have witnessed the rise of irate political forces around the simple refusal to accept growing rates of immigration.
To cite The New York Times, “Merkel has staked her legacy on upholding the European Union. A core tenet of the bloc is to maintain open borders among member states.”
These issues are deeply interconnected, and it is no coincidence that the European anti-immigration parties are also the most Euro-skeptic.
Merkel’s project has crashed twice, tragically: externally due to her incapacity to reaffirm EU values in the face of the “illiberal democratic” wind blowing from the East, and inter-nally, where her naïve optimism has backfired, raising popular support for the extreme Right and even threatening her 13-year-long reign.
Merkel’s near-fall is nothing less than an example of the crisis of the European dream as a whole.