The migrant crisis is a threat to EU
The Mediterranean Migrant Crisis: A Looming Threat to the Future of the EU
As the Mediterranean migrant crisis continues to escalate, the European Union faces a daunting challenge that threatens to undermine its very existence. Keir Starmer’s plan to strike a deal with the EU regarding asylum-seekers from other European countries, in exchange for those arriving in Britain via small boats, has exposed a glaring flaw in the EU’s asylum system. How can the EU negotiate with the UK when it struggles to manage the issue of migrants among its own member states? In this article, we delve into the complexities of the Mediterranean migrant crisis and its potential to erode the unity of the European Union.
The Ideal Asylum System
Starmer’s proposal mirrors how Europe’s asylum system should ideally function. Asylum-seekers should be required to file their claims in the first safe country they reach. Those who move between safe countries should be promptly returned to the first safe nation they entered or sent back home. Furthermore, the burden of processing asylum applications should be distributed equitably among EU member states.
EU’s Faltering Asylum System
However, the EU has failed to establish an effective asylum system, leading to dire consequences. A glaring example is the recent influx of 7,000 migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa in just two days, outnumbering the island’s permanent population of 6,000. Italy is left to grapple with this crisis largely on its own, having dealt with 124,000 arrivals in 2023 so far.
While the EU introduced a voluntary resettlement scheme for asylum applications in 2015, many member states have chosen not to participate. In 2022, Cyprus faced a staggering 22,190 asylum applications, equivalent to 24,119 for every million inhabitants, while Hungary, excluding refugees from Ukraine, managed a mere 45 applications, or 4.7 for every million inhabitants. Hungary has also fortified its borders with a Trump-style fence to deter migrants traveling from Greece to Germany.
Even countries that previously supported a fair share approach are wavering. Germany, with 243,835 asylum applications in 2022 (2,892 for every million inhabitants), suspended its agreement to accept asylum seekers from Italy, and Belgium intends to ignore a ruling by its supreme court regarding shelter for single young male asylum-seekers.
EU’s Sovereignty Challenges
The principle of free movement, a cornerstone of the EU, seems to crumble when it comes to asylum applicants. Member states readily deploy barriers, such as Hungary’s border fence, to keep migrants out. This stark contrast to the EU’s stance on free movement, as seen during David Cameron’s pre-referendum negotiations, is disconcerting.
A Potential EU Breakdown
If the EU cannot find consensus on how to address the migrant crisis, it risks rendering itself irrelevant. As formerly migrant-friendly countries like Germany and Sweden distance themselves from those arriving on Europe’s southern shores, a “every country for itself” mentality may prevail. This would undoubtedly provoke strong reactions from nations significantly affected by migrant flows.
Over a decade ago, the EU weathered the sovereign debt crisis, but the Mediterranean migrant crisis poses an even greater threat to its stability. The lofty ideals that underpin the EU are being severely tested, and the bloc’s structural integrity may be found wanting. As the Mediterranean migrant crisis continues to escalate, it becomes increasingly crucial for the EU to address this issue collectively and with determination to ensure the unity and future of the European Union.