mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
The European Immigration Crisis
“If You Survive, You Can Stay” Claims Hundreds More Dead in Med

The 2016 migrant death toll nearly doubled just this past weekend on the Mediterranean. One of the most gripping and iconic images to emerge from this horrific weekend was one of a volunteer cradling a drowned infant (graphic image warning: link), prompting comparisons to the case of Aylan Kurdi, the “boy on the beach” from this fall.

Behind his story lay several hundred others like it. The Wall Street Journal reports:

About 700 people are thought to have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa in the past few days, the United Nations’ refugee agency said Sunday, further highlighting the perils of the world’s deadliest migration route.

That figure is “a conservative estimate,” with most of the deaths the result of three large shipwrecks, said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Carlotta Sami. Most of the migrants were from sub-Saharan Africa.

On Wednesday, a ship went down with about 100 people thought to have been trapped inside, Ms. Sami said, citing witnesses. The following day, a ship sank with about 550 on board, according to migrants watching from a nearby vessel. On Friday, several dozen bodies were recovered from another ship that sank.[..] Excluding the 700 feared dead on Sunday, 1,000 people have lost their lives this year attempting the crossing, according to the International Organization for Migration.

These are the victims of a series of a series of European political decisions that, as we’ve written during previous disasters, add up to a morally catastrophic outcome. Faced with the choice of tightening border controls and keeping people out, or welcoming migrants with open arms by sending ships or chartered jets to safely bring these poor people to asylum centers in Europe, Brussels has instead blindly groped its way to the worst possible solution: it left the EU’s borders largely open, but did nothing to ensure safe passage to a mass of desperate people willing to do almost anything for a decent life.

Of course, taking all comers is a political non-starter. The migrants that have arrived thus far have proven unpopular enough to serve as a rallying cry for the continent’s many nationalist and nativist parties, many of whom could now easily enter governing coalitions at the next vote.

But as much as a properly liberal open-arms refugee policy, in full accordance with the EU’s post-WWII best ideals, has proven impossible to implement, so too has even a shade of its opposite. European elites got the vapors when Hungary’s increasingly authoritarian President Viktor Orban built fences around his country, diverting migrant flows onto its neighbors. They fumed that his unilateralism was un-European. But when a subset of European countries—Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia, along with EU aspirants Serbia and Montenegro—actively worked together earlier this year to shut down the new migrant corridor that Orban’s actions had created, their cooperation, too, was pilloried. The implicit message was that no amount of deterrence was acceptable.

Many observers spent the winter warning that both the death toll and the migrant influx would increase dramatically once the warm weather came. And yet little was done to seal off the Libya-to-Italy route, through which (it was obvious for to all to see) even more people would be flooding after the Turkey-EU pact was signed. Nor were any large-scale, systemic changes made in the asylum, repatriation, or welfare laws that would have made a difference by deterring people from taking outsize risks.

And of course, lurking behind all of this ultimately is a semi-acknowledged series of foreign policy failures, not limited to only Syria and Libya. Addressing the fallout of the current messes, as well as reorienting thinking about foreign policy in such a way as to prevent similar future catastrophes, would require a total overhaul of the way the the Europeans approach foreign policy. It, too, is a tall order.

But without change, the chaos just to Europe’s south will continue to churn out refugees and migrants, and repatriation will continue to be impossible. So we continue to have the unhappy policy of “if you survive, you can stay.” And sometimes, people—including innocent infants—don’t.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • gabrielsyme

    The interesting question this raises is when does foolish policy become criminal (at least on a moral level). Merkel’s “doors open” policy combined with the protracted process of refugee applications has directly caused hundreds of thousands to take perilous paths to attempt to reach Europe, with untold numbers dying in the process. We have only an incomplete idea of how many die at sea crossing the Mediterranean, and no clear idea how many are killed by human traffickers or die attempting to cross the Sahara or are murdered by fellow migrants. This was a foreseeable human catastrophe, and it has been going on long enough that a failure to remedy the policy is itself culpable negligence causing death.

    Merkel and the elites of Europe have blood on their hands. And yet, TAI and much of the media persists in seeing those (such as the Freedom Party of Austria and the National Front in France) who would shut down these paths of death as beyond the pale. They are not – it is those who maintain policies that predictably, provably and consistently cause death by the thousands who should be rejected by all who have any compassion or desire for justice.

    • Angel Martin

      “when does foolish policy become criminal (at least on a moral level).”

      I understand that this comment is directed at the likes of Merkel, who has set up a enticement with her “come on down” migrant policy. It has unnecessarily led to the deaths of thousands, with more to come.

      But, I am thinking of another issue related to mass migration.

      The single largest change any politician can make to a country is to radically change the demography. Almost any other legal or policy change is reversible, but allowing (or encouraging) mass population migrations and granting them citizenship or permanent residency is impossible to reverse.

      It is simply insane to give this power to whatever political hack can fluke out an election win. It sets up the incentive that prior to an election, said political hacks import a new majority from the third world to override the votes of existing citizens who want them out of office.

      No individual politician or government should be allowed this power.

      Some sort of constitutional constraint or supermajority should be required to limit this sort of abuse of office.

  • Greg Olsen

    Truly at issue for Europe is the need to come to terms with its own past. In 1951 the Convention on the Status of Refugees was drafted and adopted by 1954. It was intended to deal with the problem of refugees following World War II. Subsequently the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees that lifted the temporal and territorial restrictions on the 1951 Convention. This handcuffs the European states. They must either denounce the Protocol and accept the shame and approbation or permit their societies to be transmogrified by a invasion of refugees from MENA.

    Contrary to the United States which is a covenantal nation founded on acceptance of a certain set of enlightenment ideas, the nations of Europe are Fichtean nation-states (borders roughly coincide with ethnic/linguistic boundaries). European societies are ill-equipped to actually assimilate these refugees and turn them into Frenchman and Germans.

    Denouncing the Protocol would destroy the illusion of a Federal project in Europe that a truly multicultural and liberal polity could be created. I am being specific that we are discussion multiculturalism not pluralism, which assumes there is a dominant but tolerant cultural. Multiculturalism assumes no such dominance–i.e., all cultures equally valid. Practically, it is impossible without artificial powersharing arrangements either formal, as in Lebanon (which is entirely dysfunctional), or informal, as seen in Botswana. Denunciation would be too traumatic for the elites because it would invalidate the illusion that they are more virtuous than the evil nationalists of the fascist era.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Muslims are desperate to leave Islamic Culture dominated nations, yet insist on retaining their backward culture instead of assimilating. If they immigrate in enough numbers, they will destroy the modern civilized nation the fled to, and create just another hell hole they need to escape from. In France there are now neighborhoods where Muslims have already destroyed civilization, and where poverty, crime, and pestilence are the same as their nations of origin.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service