In 2015, the world was rocked by the humanitarian crisis of inundation of migrants arriving each day from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Eritrea into Europe. It not only affected the residents of Europe but also the rest of the world, dividing them owing to their opinion regarding the crisis. Many countries stepped forward to help the migrants while some moved away from their humanitarian responsibility.
While the world celebrated the beginning of a new year, migrants from war-torn countries were finding a path to safety. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since the beginning of 2016, 135,711 people have arrived in Europe by sea. This is a clear indicator that the crisis very much still exists.
Every day, thousands of migrants set out on the journey to Europe many dying along the way. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that in 2015, 3,770 people died while trying to cross the turbulent waters of the Mediterranean.
In 2015, Germany became an epitome of humanity by opening its doors to more than a million people. Initially German Chancellor, Angela Merkel was appreciated for her efforts in easing the situation, however, her stance changed over the next few months- reintroducing border controls, tightening asylum laws, confiscating valuables to fund the stay of refugees and also sending them back. “Afghans, who make up around a fifth of the people” and “Iraqis – making up almost a tenth – and other nationalities were less likely to be let through”, as reported by The Independent. Still Germany has not closed it’s doors, which is definitely commendable.
Hungary also saw the arrival of a large number of refugees where 177,130 people applied for asylum. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s move of setting up a 175 km long wire fence actually inspired countries such as Slovenia, Croatia, and Bulgaria to do something similar.
Recently, Macedonia shut its borders leaving up to 30,000 migrants stranded by blocking the main route to the desirable countries, adding to the already existing problems of health and bad living conditions. The closing of borders by many European nations has overwhelmed the Greek nation. French authorities have been highly criticized for their violent behaviour while demolishing the temporary migrant camps in the Calais “Jungle” camp, believed to be home to 4,000 migrants. There is a claim of relocation but still many wish to seek asylum elsewhere.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. There is also an upcoming referendum in which Britain will decide it’s future with EU, which will also affect the migrants staying in Calais.
To help ease the crisis, European Union (EU) announced an aid of $325 million to help EU states deal with the migration crisis. Also, recently EU struck a major deal with Turkey, under which “Turkey will take back all the boat-people setting off from its shores to Greece. In return, Europe is promising lots of things: money; the resettlement of many refugees now in Turkey; visa-free travel for Turks; and a revival of negotiations for Turkey to join the European Union.” That means from now on, refugees arriving in Greece would be sent back to Turkey, and for every refugee sent back, EU would resettle a refugee in Europe currently residing in Turkey.
People have been divided regarding their opinion about the deal, calling it “politically, legally or morally problematic”. The Economist called it “the best prospect” of ending the “uncontrolled influx”, and also improving the relations between Europe and Turkey. EU on the other hand, also given the recent bombing attacks, believes Turkey to be the better option for immigrants and is planning to close the Mediterranean route.
However, the migrants feel differently about the deal. A Syrian refugee was reported as saying,“We have no life in Turkey, I want to be a civil engineer like my father, but it’s impossible for this to happen here.” she added,“Yes, I heard about the E.U. plan. But I think we can still make it; we have to do it.” Although the number of refugees arriving on the Greek shores has reduced, which can also be a result of them taking alternate routes due to the closing of borders.
Canada’s recently elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made history by opening doors for 25,000 refugees in such a short period of time, aiming to reach 35-50,000 by the end of 2016. In December 2015, the approachable leader personally went to receive the first wave of migrants.“I’m not saying we’re perfect by any means. We have our problems, we have our challenges. But by and large, I think Canada has succeeded more than others in building a diverse, multicultural society.”, said John McCallum, the country’s immigration, refugees and citizenship minister while describing the country’s environment.
Germany, despite facing problems, has not turned it’s back thanks to Angela Merkel. She criticized the EU members for closing their borders. “If we do not manage to reach a deal with Turkey, then Greece cannot bear the weight for long,” Merkel said. “That’s why I am seeking a real European solution, that is, a solution for all 28 [EU members].”
It did not take long for the “We can do this” signs to turn into racist remarks, and the rise in the support of xenophobic groups like “Pegida” is not a sign of a bright future. The open gate policy clearly does not work but at the same time, turning a blind eye or resorting to violence, is also not the right way. Countries like Canada and Germany are doing great by setting examples for others to lead by. A regulated and controlled migration system is the way to go, in which contribution from each every nation is needed.