European politicians are increasingly worried about the migration crisis and how it ties in with the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership.
On January 25, 2016, The Guardian reported that former Italian prime minister Enrico Letta said it would be better if the UK delayed the referendum until 2017, when he thinks the migration crisis will have subsided.
The referendum might be held this summer, which worries Letta:
… the link between the two issues will be terrible.
On the contrary, it could even be worse by next year if we are forced to take in 90,000 migrants in 2016 and contemplate their eventual family reunification process in the meantime.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempts at renegotiating our membership prior to the referendum have also frightened his EU peers (emphases mine):
Letta was among a phalanx of senior European politicians, including two former prime ministers, who said the British renegotiation agenda was either completely impossible, self-defeating or, at points, crazy. In particular, Britain was warned that its plan to prevent non-UK citizens from receiving in-work benefits for four years could attack one of the key tenets of the union, since it threatened the principle of free movement of workers and would require a treaty change that other EU countries would not tolerate.
A bigger problem might be the automatic right for an EU citizen to claim benefits without being in work.
The Dutch, the Poles and the French are upset. France’s former Europe minister Noëlle Lenoir accused the UK of putting the immigration crisis in the forefront of Britons’ minds rather than the the principles of the free market.
Meanwhile, veteran Guardian columnist Michael White fears that the immigration crisis could create any number of Donald Trumps in Europe. However, even he grudgingly admitted that comparisons between the current situation and the Fall of the Roman Empire might have some merit.
He is old enough to remember DPs — displaced persons — coming to Western Europe, including the UK, after the Second World War. He says the continent was ‘full of’ such people, meaning that our present influx is very similar. I wonder, but I do not think so, otherwise everyone over the age of 70 would be claiming that. And they aren’t. Also, the DPs looked forward to practising their religion in peace and working hard for a living. I have never heard or read of any assimilation problems relating to them, probably because they were fellow Europeans.
The Anglican priest, the Revd Giles Fraser, worries that some in Britain are stigmatising our refugees. Whilst I agree with him that it is ill-advised for Middlesbrough’s refugee homes to have red doors (now being repainted) and for Welsh asylum seekers to wear red wristbands (since dropped) as a means of identification, to claim that we are in the run-up to a 21st century Holocaust seems wide of the mark.
Fraser then points a finger at the recent Charlie Hebdo cartoon which conflates the late little Aylan Kurdi with migrant adolescents who are teenage bum-gropers. In the process, Fraser mistranslates fesses, which is the word for ‘buttocks’, not ‘a*s’.
Actually, given recent events in Europe this month, that cartoon — whilst meant as a poke at racists — might be more prescient then the magazine had anticipated.
Guardian readers spent several days and a few hundred comments debating the cartoon and what it meant. One wrote:
I think it’s saying that you start off getting all dewy-eyed about a dead boy, and end up inviting a horde of bum-gropers into your country.
Did the right in France cry at the sight to the dead boy? Did they change their policy towards migrants because of the picture and demand that all and sundry be accepted because we must think of the children?
Because if they didn’t, then the picture of A[y]lan doesn’t ‘satirise’ them, but the virtue-signallers who failed to see the risks.
But I agree that my interpretation is only one of many possible explanations.
And how is it that so many have entered? Yes, we know about the boat smugglers, but a fascinating, informative article from 2015 by Nicholas Farrell for The Spectator explains how Italy accommodated them over the years, to the point where Italy’s leftist government in 2013
took the extraordinary step of decriminalising illegal immigration, which means among other things that none of the boat people are arrested once on dry land. Instead, they are taken to ‘Centri di accoglienza’ (welcome centres) for identification and a decision on their destinies. In theory, only those who identify themselves and claim political asylum can remain in Italy until their application is refused — or, if it is accepted, indefinitely. And in theory, under the Dublin Accords, they can only claim political asylum in Italy — the country where they arrived in the EU. In practice, however, only a minority claim political asylum in Italy. Pretty well all of them remain there incognito, or else move on to other EU countries.
The numbers have been so overwhelming that police do not force registration, which includes consenting to a photograph and fingerprints. Many migrants just disappear. Those who do decide to go into the accommodation centres are given mobile phones and €3 a day pin money as well as lessons in ice-cream making or driving.
Farrell says that, in 2014, 64,000 asylum seekers submitted their applications to the Italian authorities. However, the government was able to only process half of those claims. Those whose claims were refused can still stay in the country indefinitely because of human rights laws. Italy deported only 6,944 people that year.
When the influx is particularly heavy, Italian police bus migrants in to larger towns and cities, leaving them in town centre squares or main railway stations.
Untreated health issues, including diseases Europeans thought were long gone, pose a real risk:
Scabies is rife (of 46,000 migrants tested this year, 4,700 were infested) and one in four migrants is said by doctors to have Hepatitis C.
And 2016 looks to be no different: 400,000 migrants could be headed for Italy in the next few weeks. With Schengen hanging in the balance, passport checks are back in place, meaning that those arriving in Italy may well have to stay there. Breitbart explains:
As a country of first arrival, Italy has more to lose from the breakdown of Schengen than any other European nation, perhaps with the exception of Greece. In 2015 alone more than 150,000 migrants reached Italian shores, but the vast majority continued north, with many heading to France, Germany or the countries of Scandinavia. Now that the Schengen Treaty is all but a dead letter, the Alps have once again become an insurmountable barrier.
In this dramatic panorama the bulk of the migrants are expected to come through the “Balkan route,” and according to experts, some 400 thousand immigrants will be arriving in the coming weeks. Sources at the Interior Ministry have also expressed fears that many migrants will begin to circumvent Greece and Croatia and come directly to the ports of Ancona and Bari in southern Italy.
Perhaps it is time for Italy or the EU to consult the Australians for advice.
Farrell says we have no moral obligation to take migrants in these circumstances:
All of us feel it to be our moral duty to save lives where we can. Yet it cannot be our moral duty to ferry such vast numbers across the Mediterranean into Italy and Europe for ever, unless they are genuine refugees. In fact, our moral duty is not to do so …
The same applies to land crossings. This year, it will become incumbent on individual countries or the EU to come up with a comprehensive and sensible refugee migration policy.