Why Europe's Migrant Crisis Isn't Going To Get Better Any Time Soon

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.
After thousands of men, women and children drowned in the Mediterranean trying to find a safer, better life for themselves in Europe, the E.U. finally sat down to discuss how to prevent more deaths. But, after days of meetings, the solution looks more like a stopgap measure to guard borders than a humanitarian rescue plan.

On Thursday, the E.U. announced a plan to deal with the hundreds of thousands of refugees expected to try and reach Europe in the coming months. Some 219,000 did it last year. While you would hope that the watery deaths of more than 800 people just this week would inspire a surge in compassion, that didn’t happen.

The E.U. plans to triple the amount of money it spends on searches, but the new scope for rescue patrols will not cover some of the deadliest parts of the sea. It will also undertake seeking out and destroying the boats traffickers use to ferry refugees from Africa to Italy and Greece before they can depart. This could help reduce the number of rescue missions, but it won’t change the fact that as many as a million people are already waiting on the coast to make the journey.
Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.
The conditions that have driven families from their homes are not improving — and thanks to continued unrest in Syria and growing upheaval in Yemen, they could easily get worse — which means refugees will keep looking for routes even if the E.U. destroys one travel option.

“We know from experience that border surveillance alone is not an answer to a crisis that involves refugees. This stems from a simple truth: We can’t deter people fleeing for their lives,” António Guterres, head of the United Nations High Council on Refugees, wrote in an essay in Time. “They will come. The choice we have is how well we manage their arrival, and how humanely.”

For those that do survive and make it to shore, only a handful will be allowed to stay. According to The Guardian’s report, only 5,000 more people will be allowed to resettle in Europe under this emergency plan. Just as leaders in the U.S. are still fighting over what to do about refugees and asylum-seekers crossing the southern border, almost every European country is locked in a debate over immigration.

This tension means thousands of vulnerable, homeless people — who paid smugglers to pack them on rickety vessels and are sometimes forced onto boats at gunpoint — will be sent back to uncertain fates as soon as they arrive at their destination.
Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said the plan falls “woefully short” of what needs to be done. Keeping people out rather than helping men, women, and children in need won’t do anything, Gulik said in a statement Thursday. “Focusing on patrolling Europe’s borders and ignoring the urgent need to save those who are drowning is an insult to the thousands who have died and a callous affront to those who have no choice but to make this perilous journey,” she said.


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