What You Need to Know: The EU Migrant Crisis
These are highlights of this important current issue – the basics – that you should be aware of.
- Thousands of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have arrived in the European Union since January 2015.
40,000 have arrived in Italy alone, and UN officials estimate the total numbers of those who have crossed the Mediterranean is as much as 100,000 with most arriving in Italy and Greece. In 2014 600,000 individuals sought asylum throughout the EU. This massive influx of migrants has created a heavy burden for immigration in the EU, especially for countries like Italy and Greece that border the Mediterranean. The lives of many of these migrants are also in danger, with over 1,700 people dying so far this year in attempts to get to Europe.
- Migration is not a crime.
This truth is vital to remember in the face of this emotionally and politically charged issue. However, like many things, this situation is also more complex than black and white, right or wrong. Most of the individuals who are seeking to make the perilous journey from the Middle East and North Africa are desperate. They have suffered war, persecution, and severe human rights abuses in their countries of origin. They will accept any chance, be it risky, expensive, or near impossible, to reach the safety of Europe. Human traffickers and migrant smugglers are known to prey on the desperation of these vulnerable individuals and families, offering them passage to Europe at a high price and often placing their lives in increased danger. These traffickers are those at fault, not the migrants themselves.
- The EU is considering using force to target migrant smugglers/traffickers.
Some of the EU’s potential tactics and approaches to dealing with this migrant crisis are in danger of punishing innocent migrants and placing them in yet increased danger, rather than effectively dealing with the trafficking issue. The EU has discussed the idea of destroying vessels used to smuggle migrants across the Mediterranean so that they can no longer be used. There is a high risk, though, that boats containing human cargo would accidentally be targeted.
- An even deeper issue within the EU concerns how to fairly distribute the burden of processing so many new refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants.
A deeper issue questions the distribution of new refugees and asylum seekers throughout the EU. Some member countries are bearing a far greater percentage of the burden than others, and this is a legitimate cause of concern. In 2013 Germany processed as many as 200,000 asylum claims, while countries like the Czech Republic processed as little as 1,000. This is in part due to the fact that Germany has one of the most appealing refugee aid programs within the EU, but other EU states should still be willing to share the burden. Some believe this issue would be mitigated if refugees and asylum seekers were processed in North Africa and evenly distributed throughout the 28 EU member countries.
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