Millennium Post

Europe witnessing massive refugee influx

The European Union has been facing its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. The situation has deteriorated to a great extent. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has cautioned that the European Union could be forced to bring back border controls. Meanwhile, the demographic character of Britain will undergo a major change with its population likely to soar by 21 million due to the rising influx of immigrants.

One of Britain’s leading think-tanks Population Matters claims that it is going to get a lot more difficult for people living in the country. Britain is already one of the EU’s most densely populated countries. According to certain estimates, by 2080 there will be an extra 21 million people living in the UK - taking the population to the 85 million mark. Over the same period, Brussels expects the EU’s population to have increased by just 11 million to reach 520 million.

Even the United Nations acknowledged that EU authorities were unable to cope up with the influx of refugees from countries like Syria, who are seeking to move to prosperous Germany, Sweden, and Britain. Europe’s Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramapoulos, who is a Greek, said that the situation in Greece was “particularly urgent,” adding that it would be an “understatement to describe it as challenging.”

Refugees and economic immigrants, mostly from Syria, have flooded into Greece, with more than 125,000 of them reaching the eastern Aegean islands this year, a whopping 750 percent increase compared to 2014. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced on Friday that the number of immigrants and asylum seekers who have been arriving in Europe is approaching a quarter-million this year. The EU expressed its intent on Friday to fast-track new funding to help Greece cope with the wave of migrants. In addition to funds, the EU has also proposed a relocation system to transfer 16,000 people, in need of international protection from Greece to other EU member states.

The large influx of refugees has enraged the local populace, and they have turned hostile to the refugees. The local people are scared that immigrants would endanger the cultural and social ethos of EU. Letters bearing these feelings have already started finding space even in popular dailies. The demographic and cultural character of these immigrants has not eased the hostility they face from the locals. The refugees are not Christian Europeans; they are Congolese, Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Malian. They share nothing with Europeans except the desire for a better life. After WWII, cities all over Europe needed rebuilding, there was a labour shortage, and everyone was at least European. As a result, there is an apprehension among certain political commentators that future governments elected will look nothing like the liberal governments of today.

The Germans also allege that Britain is not bearing its fair share of the burden. As an EU member, it is obligated to act as a member of the Union. If it doesn’t like it, then it should get out. If it wants the privileges, then it should share the responsibilities and burdens that go with them. There is a feeling that Europe is accepting a changing face with both hands tied behind its back. If certain member nations of the European Union did not help the United States in starting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, bombarding Libya and supporting the overthrow of Assad in Syria, the continent would have never witnessed such an influx of refugees.

By the side of a road in Austria, 71 people, believed to be Syrian, lost their lives in a refrigerated food truck. Among them were four children, three of them aged between eight and ten years of age. The safe passage for which their parents paid the traffickers turned out to the death sentence. Despite the risks, the people – the refugees and economic immigrants – keep coming to Europe in ever rising numbers. Already this year an estimated 300,000 refugees and illegal immigrants have 
made the journey to Europe, an increase of 80,000 or so of the total for 2014.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told the German people that she expects the country to take another 800,000 refugees and she has urged other countries to do the same. She categorically said that Germany wasn’t responsible for the growing crisis, as thousands of refugees try to board trains to the country from Hungary. In fact, the Hungarian government has blamed a German decision to suspend EU asylum rules for asylum-seekers fleeing the civil war. However, Merkel rejected the criticism. Syrians were likely to be granted asylum in Germany, she said but added: “That should come as no surprise. It should be the same in every European country.”

The crime syndicates have compounded the migration problem. With their motto of making a fast buck, they have been smuggling refugees to Germany. It is now feared that the Balkans are the centre of Europe’s human trafficking web. Only a day after 71 people suffocated in a chicken lorry, three children were rescued from a cramped truck in Austria. All had been on a road route controlled by criminal gangs. So terribly decomposed were their corpses that passersby noticed putrid liquid dripping from the air-tight interior once used for transporting frozen chicken. Inside, police found no air vents. Between January and July this year, 102,342 people crossed into Austria via the western Balkans. The difference between the number of refugees who entered through the Balkans and those who entered Europe via the so-called “central Mediterranean” route was more than 10,000, according to Frontex, the EU border control agency.

The latest intelligence assessment of criminality in the western Balkans – an area with a well-known history of violence, instability and organised crime – is worrying. It is now beyond doubt that some of the region’s established criminal syndicates have moved into refugee smuggling. A third of the 130 ongoing Europol investigations into people smuggling are, the Observer has learned, linked to criminal gangs that have previously had formed for drug trafficking, supplying girls to the sex trade or money laundering. On Friday, the agency said it had now identified 3,000 serious players linked to people-smuggling in Europe, including some Britons.

Police evacuated Budapest’s main station as huge crowds of refugees tried to get on trains. Many of the migrants are Syrian and want to get to Germany, which has said, it will not send them back under EU rules, but will process their claims itself. With Europe’s great migration under way, and globalisation and air travel making mobility easier, it would be naive to believe that the British government can or should make the UK a fortress and stop refugees from entering the country.

Those fleeing Syria, for instance, have to pay a fee of around $1,000 (£649) to squeeze into an inflatable dinghy for a short passage from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands. Inside Macedonia, refugees pay, on average, $500 to smugglers to navigate the country using off-road routes to Serbia, a journey that can take ten days. Many are “led through the forests” by their guides. Investigators for Amnesty International documented a grim pilgrimage. “Walking in extreme weather, over mountains and wading through rivers, sometimes without food and water for days on end, the challenges are immense. Exhaustion, pain, and hunger take both a physical and a psychological toll. For the migrants, a journey to Germany and other developed western nations is the road for hope,” it said. 

(The views expressed are personal)
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