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Immigration crisis in the EU: globalized world losing balance between center and periphery

Photo: newsukraine.com.ua

On Aug 24, 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin with French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. For Russian mass media, the highlight of that meeting was the crisis in Ukraine, while for mass media in Europe, the priority was immigration. According to the latter, the first thing Hollande mentioned in Berlin was the illegal immigration crisis in the EU, with the crisis in Ukraine being just the second on the agenda. As a result, at the end of the meeting, the German and French leaders appeared with a joint address to the EU to be united in its immigration policy in the face of a growing crisis.

Today, illegal immigration has become the problem N1 for Europe, and the Ukrainian crisis is regarded as a potential source of it. And this is why the European leaders are calling for peaceful settlement in Ukraine. Reconciliation would be a good ground for Germany to deny refuge to immigrants from Ukraine, while continued war would put the EU in the face of one more wave of immigration. So, we can say that the current immigration crisis in the EU has become a big factor for the conflict in Ukraine.

Since this spring, European mass media have kept reporting incidents involving illegal immigrants seeking to get into Europe. They reported mass deaths of refugees attempting to emigrate from Africa to Italy and Greece on small boats. According to the UNHCR, as many as 224,000 immigrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean since the beginning of this year. Of them, some 124,000 have come to Greece, causing a 750% jump as compared with the previous year. It looks as if the old dam that has protected the EU from illegal immigration so far has been broken and a huge wave of immigrants is about to cover Europe.

In June, the EU received even more alarming reports about illegal immigrants in Hungary. At first, they in Brussels called down curses on the authoritarian Hungarian regime, when they learned that the Hungarians decided to cancel the Dublin III Regulation, allowing the EU member states to send illegal immigrants back to the member states of their first arrival. But upon a closer view they saw that Hungary was facing a real emergency: almost 100,000 illegal immigrants in Q1 2015 alone against just 2,074 refugees in 2012, 18,590 in 2013 and 41,521 in 2014. These statistics reflect the general situation in the EU: as many as 185,000 people asked for refugee in Europe in Q1 2015. This is 85% more than in Q1 2014. Obviously, the number of illegal immigrants is much bigger.

Almost 75% of the refugees illegally penetrating into Hungary are from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, that is, from warring countries. The current European rules give Hungary no chance to deny refuge to those people. So, the country has started building a wall on its border with Serbia – a kind of a limes against modern “barbarians.”

The next incident took place a month later in Calais, where there is a tunnel connecting France with the UK. Today, this is the only land border between the UK and the Schengen Area. The UK is not part of the Schengen Area and has its own visa policy. But the incident in Calais has shown that this is not a guarantee against illegal immigrants. July 28-29 night almost 2,000 people stormed into the territory of the Eurotunnel with a view to illegally emigrate to the UK. A similar incident recurred on Aug 2-3 night but the police were already there.

The incident in Calais gave rise to anti-immigrant moods and complaints about the situation on the border. According to the French police, almost 70% of illegal immigrants arriving in Calais leave it four months later, but nobody knows where they go as the French authorities are not controlling the situation. So, after the incident in Calais France and the UK asked the European Commission to help them in the matter.

One more trouble spot in the EU was revealed in mid Aug on the border of Greece and FYR Macedonia: several thousands of people broke through the border into the Macedonian territory and the local police were unable to stop them. During the summer the Macedonian authorities registered over 41,000 illegal immigrants from Greece. Those people brought with them the EU’s internal problem. But when the Macedonians send them by trains and buses to Serbia, it was already the EU’s turn to worry as those people were not going to stay in Serbia but were planning to go further to the north to the EU territory. This summer Bulgaria began reinforcing its borders with FYR Macedonia, Greece and Turkey and tried to block all transit corridors running via its territory. According to the Bulgarian authorities, as many as 9,200 people have asked for refuge in Bulgaria since the beginning of this year – a bit too much for the poorest country in the EU. So, the Bulgarians have begun building a 30-km wall on its border with Turkey. Greece has already built such a wall.

Thus, last weekend almost 7,000 illegal immigrants came to Serbia from FYR Macedonia. And now they are going to invade Hungary. Almost 4,400 more were seen in the Mediterranean Sea.

And the last news that has closed this circle was the rise of anti-immigrant moods in Germany. This year that country expects to receive more than 800,000 immigrants – 1% of its population. The news came from Heidenau, where far-right groups organized a protest action near the local refugee center. It was exactly Heidenau where the Pegina anti-Islam group started its rallies in the autumn 2014. The immigration crisis has exposed lots of ethnic, confessional and other contradictions in the EU. The German Interior Minister said that the EU would have to suspend the Schengen regime if it finds no ways to overcome the immigration crisis. In July 2015 Austria and Denmark said they needed to suspend the Schengen rules so as to impose control on their borders with Italy and Germany, respectively.

The key concern of Europe is that among illegal immigrants from Muslim countries there may be Islamic terrorists. This concern was confirmed by the attempted shooting in a Thalys train in France. The Moroccan terrorist had a Kalashnikov and was ready for a massacre were it not for the two US military men who stopped him. On Aug 24 the EU transport ministers met in Brussels to consider ways to improve the security of railway stations. They are not yet going to use special baggage check equipment but will probably use external cameras for detecting suspicious people and also additional patrol forces. But this will not be equivalent to border control.

In Aug 2015, the EU realized that it was no longer able to control illegal immigration. On Apr 23, 2015, it convoked a special summit and decided to resettle the immigrants that were seeking shelter in Italy and Greece to other EU countries according to special quotas. On July 20, 2015, the European Council approved a resolution stipulating resettlement of 32,256 foreign citizens seeking shelter in Europe and fixing quotas for host countries. The biggest quotas were given to Germany and France, but the governments of the UK, France, Denmark, Hungary and the Baltic states refused to take part in this process. So, it turned out that Europe was not unanimous on this problem. But despite this resistance, the European Commission and the European Parliament are already considering new quotas for 2016. The next EU summit in Malta on Nov 11-12, 2015, will focus on immigration problems. It will involve not only European leaders but also representatives from Africa. In any case, those quotas are much smaller than the illegal immigration statistics registered in the summer 2015.

There is one more solution here: in May 2015m, the EU announced the start of a naval campaign against criminal organizations supplying illegal immigrants via the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. But the problem here is that in case of such a campaign, the EU force will have to violate the international maritime law and the freedom of navigation. And so, the Europeans are hesitant.

On Aug 11, the EU announced that it would allocate €2.4 billion to member states so they could reinforce their borders and could toughen their immigration procedures. But this is not an extraordinary sum. This is just part of the EU’s ordinary €7 billion budget for asylum, migration and integration in 2014-2020. The money will be given to 19 member states for 23 national programs. Italy and Greece will get the most - €558 million and €474 million, respectively, Spain will get €521 million, Sweden will get €154 million.

The August crisis has shown that the EU has no single immigration policy, and besides the laws preventing illegal immigrants from penetrating into Europe, the Europeans should also have mechanisms preventing them from freely moving inside the EU. In Apr 2015, the British authorities started checking the passports of those leaving the UK. Oftentimes, they do not know who enters their country illegally but they want to know who leaves it legally.

The key reason why there was such an outburst of immigration in 2015 is that the globalized world has lost the balance between its center and periphery. We no longer have “developed” and “developing” countries. These two worlds are now connected by a channel of crisis migration. Demography and climate changes are among the key factors here. But in North Africa and the Middle East the key factors are war and economic crisis. The terrorist activity of some of those emigrating to Europe is the reverse side of the conflicts provoked by the West in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Even more, being no longer a state, Libya has become a big criminal transit zone for illegal emigrants from all over Africa. Political and economic instability is causing people from poor African and Middle East countries to seek shelter in prosperous Europe. But this prosperity is relative as unemployment in the EU is as high as 10%. Multiculturalism is no longer effective and can throw Europe into a chaos. Illegal immigration is challenging the EU’s principles. In such a situation, the Europeans need a new system of total control. But if they create such a system, they will no longer be able to advocate personal freedoms. Modern technologies allow creating such a system, so, it is now for the EU to decide if it wants to become a super-police, supranational state.

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