Hundreds of thousands of migrants have entered the EU this year fleeing from a range of countries from Syria to Eritrea. But not all of those who try to enter the EU are able to make it—with hundreds of bodies turning up over the past few months, their locations spanning from the sides of roads to the shores of Libya, this crisis has left Europe in a state of emergency.
The EU has been criticized for being unable to handle the massive influx of people, and many member states have complained that not all of the countries are doing their fair share. While funding to handle the immigration crisis has tripled, some countries such as the UK have been criticized for their lack of support when compared to Germany, which already receives about 40% of all asylum seekers entering the EU within their borders. Even with Germany being willing to take on such a massive amount of refugees, the continuation of Schengen is being called into question if an agreement on an even distribution of the migrants is not reached. Angela Merkel was quoted saying “If it’s not possible to achieve a fair allocation of refugees within Europe, then some people will want to put Schengen on the agenda”. She is not the only one who is predicting a potential threat to Schengen; Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michael has commented on the potentials dangers of it, and the UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May recently called for a rethinking of the free movement principle, declaring her belief that free movement should only apply to those who are already employed (see article in The Guardian). The migrant crisis that Europe is experiencing has been predicted to potentially bring restrictions which hinder the rights of citizens’ to free movement. What policy makers and citizens alike need to remember is that there is a difference between asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Europe on the one hand, and European citizens who already enjoy the right to free movement on the other, as concepts are becoming increasingly blurred amidst the context of the migration crisis.
Regardless of the difference between refugees and EU migrants, the prospect of having hundreds of thousands of people flooding the EU borders has been causing tension. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed a “no tolerance” policy for migrant hatred, she was greeted with boos and accusations of being a “traitor” when visiting asylum centres.
Threats to security bring additional complications. After the foiled attack on the Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris, nine countries, including France and Belgium, which top the chart of foreign fighters having joined Sunni militant groups in Syria and Iraq, have agreed to ramp up their requirements for travel to strengthen railway security (see article in Politico). The migrant crisis, in combination with the potential security threats have left member states in a condition of distrust, disdain, and dire need for direction from government leaders on what steps to take next.