Europe’s Refugee Double Standard: How it Left Europe Vulnerable!
The world has watched in horror as the refugee crisis unfolded over the past few years. One of the worst humanitarian crises of our time has seen over 65 million people flee their homes. In 2015, Germany received 1 million asylum-seekers and other European countries are struggling to deal with the influx. The bloc has been left divided over how to handle the situation, with some countries divided on whether to admit refugees as a humanitarian crisis or an economic opportunity. While there are some countries within the EU that have been more welcoming than others, there is no doubt that Europe as a whole has been a less than stellar host. Here’s why Europe’s refugee crisis has exposed the continent’s double standards and left it vulnerable.
As one of the richest regions in the world, Europe should be one of the best places to receive a humanitarian response to a crisis. Unfortunately, the continent has struggled to deliver effective aid to the millions who have fled war and poverty. In 2015, the EU spent just 1.2 percent of its GDP on foreign aid, significantly less than the UN target of 1 percent. The EU has also faced criticism for its refugee policies from both the international community and aid workers within its borders. In the words of UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, the bloc’s approach has been, “too slow, too bureaucratic, and too restrictive.” As a result, Europe’s refugee crisis has exposed a lack of trust in institutions and a fractured society, which makes it harder for the region to respond effectively to future crises.
The refugee crisis has also shown the limits of Europe’s economic power. The bloc’s economy is currently the second largest in the world, but its wealth is not evenly distributed. The poorest member states, including Greece, Italy, and Spain, have been particularly affected by the crisis and have had to request assistance from the EU and IMF. Reflecting the economic burden, the EU has, at least so far, only been able to offer token financial aid to some of the world’s poorest countries, including Pakistan, Nigeria, and Jordan. In fact, the refugee crisis has even exposed the limitations of the single European currency, the euro, which is currently experiencing its third year of recession.
Europe’s response to the refugee crisis has exposed its double standards. While the region has accepted some refugees, it has also forced others to stay behind. The EU’s migrant management policies are based on the premise that all migrants are potential terrorists and threats to the bloc’s security. But when it comes to refugees, the bloc has created a different set of rules. Allowing some into the EU does not reduce the larger security concerns, but rather highlights the fact that the EU does not accept the same standard for all.
Lack of Trust in Institutions
Europe’s refugee crisis has shown the lack of trust in institutions. The Schengen Area, the bloc’s single borderless travel area, was effectively abandoned as countries erected militarized fences and closed their borders. Those countries that did allow some refugees through were subject to criticism for mismanaging the situation and violating the human rights of those seeking sanctuary. The crisis has exposed a lack of trust in the EU as a whole, with one Oxford University study finding a “significant reduction” in support for the union among the public. The crisis has also damaged the credibility of national institutions across the region, including the national governments, the UN, and the EU.
Europe’s Fractured Societies
Europe’s response to the refugee crisis has also exposed the continent’s fractured societies. Germany, Austria, and Sweden have been particularly welcoming to asylum-seekers, but those efforts have been met with resistance in other parts of the EU. Poland, for example, has been at the center of the crisis, resisting efforts by the EU and others to accept refugees. That has led to a serious breakdown in trust between the two sides, with Poland’s neighbors accusing it of violating human rights and refugees calling the country home.
Weakened Social Infrastructure
Europe’s refugee crisis has also been a significant test for the region’s social infrastructure. The influx of people has put a strain on Europe’s education and health systems, leading to higher rates of overcrowding and reduced access to care. Those issues have been exacerbated by the fact that many refugees arrive without health insurance or passports, making it difficult to provide them with the care they require. That has created an environment in which hospitals and clinics have been overwhelmed by the number of patients and unable to discharge some of them.
Europe’s Internal Security Issues
The refugee crisis has also underscored the importance of addressing Europe’s internal security issues. The EU’s external border is not adequately policed, allowing criminals and terrorists to enter the bloc. But the crisis has highlighted how those threats are often born out of Europe’s failed asylum policies. In fact, the European Commission says that more than half of the terrorists involved in deadly attacks in the EU between 2010 and 2015 entered as asylum-seekers. That is why there is a consensus in the EU that the only way to address the refugee crisis is to tackle Europe’s security issues.
The refugee crisis has revealed many of the shortcomings of Europe and its institutions. The response of some countries has exposed a lack of trust in the EU and its member states, while others have fallen behind on their humanitarian commitments. The crisis has also highlighted the need for better security, social, and economic policies on the part of the EU and its member states.
In light of these difficulties, the future of the EU is unclear. But one thing is for certain: without reforms, the bloc will face even more challenges in the coming years.