A picture circulated widely in social media of a little guy Aylan Kurdi created a furor on social media and widespread outcry on plight of war refugees from people all over on what is probably the worst humanitarian crisis we’re facing in recent times. Let’s have a closer look at what exactly is Europe’s migrant crisis.
Origination Europe has been destination of migrants from a lot of sub-saharan and low income middle eastern countries given high standard of living and better future prospects. However, the problem of current crisis can largely be attributed to civil unrest of Syria and Iraq that is going on. One may ask that Syrian civil war has been going on for quite a long time, 3-4 years actually so why now? That’s probably because with Iran and Russia allegedly bankrolling Assad’s forces and rich gulf countries bankrolling separatist, there’s no peace accord in sight. Thus, the increase in migration.
Fall of Libyan dictator and lawlessness in Libya has also added to rise in illegal migration across mediterranean to Italian and greek coasts which has not just resulted in rise of illegal immigrants but also resulted in lot of accidents because of overcrowded boats capsizing in sea. Italian coast guards rescued almost 4400 migrants on 23rd August after receiving distress calls from 20+ vessels.
Some of the worse tragedies in 2015 include:
- Two boats carrying about 500 migrants sinking after leaving Zuwara in Libyaon 27 August
- Bodies of 71 people, believed to be Syrian migrants, discovered in an abandoned lorry in Austria on 27 August
- Shipwreck off Italy’s Lampedusa island on 19 April took an estimated 800 lives
- At least 300 migrants feared to have drowned after attempting to cross the Mediterranean in rough seas in early February
What’s the hard statistics?
As reported by BBC, 350,000 people arrived in Europe. Most, almost 230,000 arrived in Greece from Turkey’s refugee camp on small wooden boats to island of Kos in southern Greece after paying thousands of dollars to smugglers. And this number is the legal one, for undetected migrants, we have no idea at all!
The death toll (due to boats capsizing) stands at 30,000 people approximately and counting.
What’s the issue, grant them asylum!
Well, this may not be the best time for Europe, which is already recovering from a financial slump. Add to that, increased unemployment in recent times more than ever, bleak growth prospects and stock market crash.
Also, European Union Asylum system possess a bureaucratic hurdle. Let’s dig a bit deeper, EU has 28 member states, each having it’s own set of rules and procedures to grant asylum. Some give it to people of specific nationalities, some on other basis.
Countries like Italy and Greece which are already facing economic problems are getting the maximum migrants due to their location being the entry point of Europe. This puts additional monetary strain of each EU member. Additionally, there’s an EU agency Frontex that deals with border management and security of EU, it funded an expensive operation Triton which dealt with search and rescue of illegal migrants in sea. This was an extension of similar operation by Italy which was so costly that it had to shut down.
EU members recently tripled the Frontex budget. However Frontex said in August it had not received enough pledges of assets from EU states to help Greece and Hungary which are facing multitudes of problem of their own.
How exactly to countries grant asylum?
(As reported by BBC)
Migrants have to satisfy the authorities that they are fleeing persecution and would face harm or even death if sent back to their country of origin.
Under EU rules, an asylum seeker has the right to food, first aid and shelter in a reception centre. They should get an individual assessment of their needs. They may be granted asylum by the authorities at “first instance”. If unsuccessful, they can appeal against the decision in court, and may win.
Asylum seekers are supposed to be granted the right to work within nine months of arrival.
In 2014, the EU statistics agency Eurostat reports, 45% of first instance asylum decisions were positive – that is, authorities granted refugee or subsidiary protection status, or permission to stay for humanitarian reasons.
Nearly 104,000 got refugee status in the EU last year, nearly 60,000 subsidiary protection status and just over 20,000 authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons. (Austria was not included in the data.)
The highest number of positive asylum decisions in 2014 was in Germany (48,000), followed by Sweden (33,000), then France and Italy (both 21,000) and the UK (14,000).
What are rich gulf nations doing? Nothing.
Close to 2 million refugees are in Lebanon and Jordan; countries with per capita income being less than $11,000 while countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with per capita income of $100,000+ have done little for Syrians. They have contributed to Syrian refugee fund of UN where US is the largest donor followed by Qatar but a lot hold the view that when these countries speak so much for Syrian people why don’t they spend more on refugees than they do on bankrolling separatist.
What is going to happen now? No one knows for sure, as of now, Austria and Germany have agreed to accept asylum applications with standard requirement as was in place before. Hungary, which stopped the train that was supposed to take migrants has relaxed border restriction for now and Austrians have welcomed the refugees but the government says standard rules still apply in Austria as well.