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Migrant Mess
Austria to Seal Off Border with Slovenia

The Balkan migrant corridor is about to get much more congested, as Austria announced this morning that it is getting ready to erect a border fence with fellow Schengen member Slovenia to help control the flow of people. AFP:

“We do not believe that the current migrant crisis that Europe is facing can be resolved with the building of fences or walls,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert, adding that the problem could only be dealt with if countries stood united. […]

Austria’s move is bound to intensify concerns about the EU’s cherished Schengen system, a crucial part of European integration efforts, which allows for the free movement of people and goods.

But Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner insisted the planned barrier was “not about shutting down the border”.

“This is about ensuring an orderly, controlled entry into our country. Also, a fence has a gate,” she told Austrian media Wednesday.

Slovenia, which is expecting up to 400 additional border guards from other EU countries to come to its aid, had also threatened to build a fence along its border with fellow EU member (but not Schengen member) Croatia. Croatia might be likely then, in turn, to close its border with Serbia, which is more-or-less demarcated by the Danube. (Croatia’s exceedingly long border with Bosnia would be much harder to secure, though with winter coming, Bosnia’s more mountainous terrain might be enough of a deterrent—at least for a time.)

What we’re witnessing is a slow-motion car wreck. The idealistic policies of Angela Merkel—which are themselves coming under increasing fire back home in Germany—are running straight into the reality of European politics to produce what may end up being an intractable humanitarian catastrophe. A column of tens of thousands of stateless, homeless people are now splayed across a set of countries—Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia—least capable of providing for their basic needs as winter sets in. Slovenia has less than half the GDP per capita of Austria; Croatia, in turn, has just a bit more than half that of Slovenia; and Serbia and Macedonia, in turn, have about half that of Croatia.

As one senior European policy analyst told Politico EU’s Playbook:

“It’s one thing for people to die at sea” as most people can block that out as a distant problem, except when the tragedy is huge (an overcrowded ship sinking) or poignant (a dead child washed ashore). “But it’s another thing for people to die on land around us.”

These are the wages well-meaning humanitarian impulses untethered from political realities.

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  • jeburke

    Today, 67 years after the Arab-Israeli 1948 war, some 1.5 million Palestinian refugees still live in 58 UN-recognized refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Yet, refugees from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. are supposed by some European leaders to have a right to live in Germany, Austria or The Netherlands. Curious, eh?

  • rheddles

    The Fences of October.

    • Jim__L

      Still better than guns, you have to admit.

  • Jim__L

    At some point in this process we are likely to experience the death of humanitarian idealism – a loss of illusions, if we’re lucky, and a loss of much more if we’re not. It’s never pretty, and may leave scars and grudges (and hopefully, lessons learned) that last generations.

    This is what happens when America is unwilling to, and Europe is incapable of, intervening in Syria to remove a brutal dictator. Stopping the problem at its source would not have been easy, but would have avoided an impossible new problem. Now to solve this problem, you have to make some progress on solving the other related issues (general failure of Islamic countries and economies, collapsed birthrate of Europeans) which have been intractable for some time.

    Sometimes this world just doesn’t give you easy ones.

    • PennsylvaniaPry

      Is it worth asking why Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, et al. have such brutal regimes in the first place? To presume that those countries merely suffer as oppressed nations under willfully brutal madmen, in the manner of Soviet occupation of the Eastern European countries, is questionable. As we have seen in Iraq, and increasingly in Syria, the removal of said brutal dictator’s authority is what is unleashing the killing. Before, it was rare–and noted–when a brutal dictator took to wholesale extermination (Syria under Assad’s father and the Kurds and “Marsh Arabs” under Saddam. Certainly the artificiality of the states created in the aftermath of World War I and the colonial era has contributed to the problem by disturbing the primordial organic settlement of peoples under the Ottomans. But the Arab response to the failure of the Ottomans suggests that even their rule would have been challenged later in the 20th century even if the British and the French had not gotten involved.

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