The migrant crisis in Europe is testing its solidarity. Desperate human beings, looking for respite from war, violence, deprivation and tyrannical regimes, are making perilous journeys on land and sea, paying with everything they have, including their lives.
According to the UNHCR, 224,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe since the beginning of this year and more than 2,000 people have died so far.
This issue, while underlining the political plight of countries such as Syria, Libya, Eritrea and others in sub-Saharan Africa from where the bulk of migrants come, is also showing up the European Union’s inability to sift its politics from policies.
The resolution by European leaders in April to triple the funding of maritime operations in the Mediterranean to stem migrant drownings at sea is but one aspect of this issue. There are other imperatives that Europe needs to address urgently.
First, it needs to reassess its decision of closing some of its borders. This is worsening the plight of the migrants who are forced to undertake more hazardous ways to enter Europe even as it boosts the revenues of human trafficking syndicates. In doing this, Europe has set off on a Sisyphean quest. Human trafficking syndicates need to be disempowered and dismantled, not emboldened.
Second, the EU needs to ensure an effective and uniform implementation of its mechanisms for migrants. For example, the Common European Asylum System sets the standard for processing and assessing asylum applications, and the granting of refugee status across the EU but off paper, these regulations are patchily addressed due to the differences in welfare systems within EU member states, as well as political lassitude in some instances. As a result, many migrants end up being worse off than before.
If Europe wishes to reiterate its fundamental values — respect for human dignity, freedom and respect for human rights — it needs to work harder to establish a parity of responsibility among its member states for asylum seekers and economic refugees.