Massive irregular migration into Europe is the confluence of globalisation, conflict, aspiration, supranationalism and terrorism. It is that confluence which makes the current migration crisis so dangerous. As such Europe’s migration crisis represents a clear and present danger to European security. However, effective pan-European crisis management is snared in a fundamental debate over the future governance of the EU and who decides what, where, and when. If the migration crisis is to be brought under control action must be taken and quickly and this wretched and seemingly eternal debate prevents that. Rather than empty rhetoric the considered application of strategy is needed to manage what by any standards is a structural shift in international relations with profound implications for Europe.
Time is pressing. Yesterday European Council President Donald Tusk warned that the EU has two months to establish control over the migration crisis before the Schengen Area collapses. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, at a desperate Berlin’s behest, said proposals would be brought forward to scrap the Dublin Convention whereby a refugee must seek asylum in the first EU member-state in which they arrive, and for a sovereignty-busting EU external border force. As Juncker was speaking Doctors without Frontiers released a report that stated the blindingly obvious; the EU’s cack-handed response to the migration crisis in 2015 had made matters worse not better. Indeed, the case for Europeans abandoning substantive national democracy in return for Brussels-based effectiveness and efficiency was blown away by the migrants last year as Europe wallows in a huge sovereignty swamp trapped between national and EU policy.
Therefore, read behind the headlines and the message is clear; the migration crisis is about to trigger an almighty political showdown between Germany and the Euro-federalists on one side, who seek empire/political union, and those in the EU who want to preserve a modicum of state sovereignty. Clearly something needs to be done. A complacent Europe elite suffered the shock of mass uncontrolled, irregular migration in 2015. It is a crisis that was compounded by the existing Eurozone crisis and Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
In the absence of leadership the response of ordinary Europeans has too often been extreme. On the one hand, the political Left has demanded that the humanitarian imperative must trump all security concerns. This is a response typified by the shamefully unbalanced reporting of BBC TV News (amongst many other broadcasters) which nightly presented the migrants as cute families all headed by neurosurgeons on their way to rescue Europe’s ailing public health services. Moderates who question the wisdom of permitting such uncontrolled numbers into Europe and with them fellow-travelling criminals and terrorists have been routinely branded as racists or fascists. On the other hand, the political Right have warned that European civilisation is under threat from what they imply are the latter day descendants of the Mongol Hordes. As ever, the truth lies well to the centre of both positions.
The figures speak for themselves. According to the International Office of Migration (IoM) 2015 some 60 million irregular migrants were on the move world-wide, which is not far short of the population of the United Kingdom. Turkey is accommodating some 2.2 million Syrian refugees, whilst Germany ‘welcomed’ some 1.1m migrants in 2015, thus adding over 1% to its 80 million population. Moreover, the impact of the criminal fellow-travellers on ordinary Europeans is now apparent. In January 2016 there were over 650 complaints of sexual harassment in Cologne alone following attacks on New Year’s Eve 2015, purportedly carried out by men of mainly North African and Middle Eastern ‘appearance’. Indeed, police in North-Rhine Westphalia have reported that 40% of North African men commit a crime within the first year of arrival, often to pay-off people traffickers, compared with 0.5% of Syrians, 0.6% of Afghans, 2.4% of Iraqis and 3.6% of Iranians.
Furthermore, Professor Valerie Hudson of Texas A&M University has warned that Sweden is now facing what some newspapers describe as a ‘demographic time-bomb’. With sex ratios at 123 men to every 100 women the imbalance is more acute than that of China, which is regarded as a dangerous ‘gold’ standard. Over the past ten years Sweden which has welcomed more migrants per head of population but has also seen a tenfold increase in rape attacks compared with other European states. Indeed, one of the most notable absences during this crisis has been the unwillingness of many Western European leaders to admit the increased level of risk to which their failure to control migration is exposing its citizens. For example, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has simply said that the Netherlands has laws in place to deal with such transgressions, quite deliberately avoiding the clear security risk posed to Dutch citizens.
Critically, according to IoM 66.26% of adult migrants registered in Italy and Greece in 2015 were young men under the age of 25, whilst 90% of unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 are male. These figures tally with those of the Swedish Government which reports that 71% of those entering Sweden in 2015 were male. The apparent reason for the gender imbalance is that young men are often sent ahead to gain residency so that their families will follow thereafter. However, it is precisely this group of young men that poses the greatest threat to Europeans from introduced crime and Islamist terrorism.
Chancellor Merkel in defending her ‘open door’ policy has sought to justify her encouragement of the influx by suggesting that migrants once integrated will help offset Germany’s profound imbalance between its contributory working population and its ageing ‘non-contributory’ population. However, Professor Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich has estimated that some 65% of all new arrivals into Germany are functionally illiterate in their own languages, making it very hard to integrate them into Germany society. Professor Harrie Verbon of the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands goes further suggesting that Europeans are being lied to routinely by their leaders about the negative economic impacts of the migration, particularly at the lower end of the European labour market. According to Verbon even highly-educated migrants end up at the low-end of the labour market because their qualifications are often not recognised.
The political consequences of the elite failure to deal with this crisis in Europe are already profound. The EU is now regarded by many Europeans as dysfunctional and its policy of free movement under the Schengen is now seen by many as part of the problem not the solution. A profound split has emerged between Western European EU member-states with a tradition of liberalism and multiculturalism, and those in Central and Eastern Europe who reject such ideas. The result is the burden of migration has fallen disproportionately on a few Western European states whilst attempts to spread the burden more evenly have led to accusations of German bullying, Commission other-worldliness or worse.
However, perhaps the worst damage has been done to the relationship between European leaders and European led. For years Western European leaders have painted an exceptionally rosy picture of the impact of mass immigration and the benefits of ‘multiculturalism’. The latest shock seems to have broken what was an already tenuous link between distant elites who do not live with the consequences of such immigration, and those that do. Worse, the elite’s refusal to look at the worst-case consequences of mass irregular immigration was revealed as folly by the November 2015 terror attack in Paris. Something snapped that terrible day in Europe and leaders are now scrambling to regain some level of trust. Most notably Chancellor Merkel of Germany.
But, here’s the twist. Much though many in Europe would like to wish this crisis away they cannot. The Middle East is on the verge of a collapse that goes way beyond Syria and could well extend into North Africa and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and into Asia.
So, what is to be done? If a balance is to be restored between European security and Europe’s humanitarian obligations it is vital a strategic approach is adopted. Such a strategy would need the following facets: a proper big picture understanding of the scale of the problem; a coherent and consistent strategy to disrupt criminal networks facilitating mass irregular migration; a thoroughgoing re-evaluation of how to better support displaced persons in war zones and neighbouring countries that bear the brunt of consequence; sustained efforts to better integrate those with a right to stay, with existing asylum rules robustly applied, including humane deportation of those who do not qualify. Above all, it will require European leaders to move beyond the platitudes that mark their collective failure like pot-holes on the road to disaster, even if that means tough calls have to be made.
There is one other idea that must now be considered. It is now clear that the twenty-first century is going to witness mass disruption and thus mass irregular migration on an enormous scale probably almost continuously. Thus far the ‘international community’ has been reactive and divided in its response. Perhaps it is time to re-visit the entire displaced persons architecture much of which dates back to the 1951 to the UN Refugee Convention. Given the sheer scale of migration flows perhaps a new systems of governance and management is needed that would exert control, guarantee justice, and protect recipient societies of the harmful effect of excessively rapid migrations. Such management will take a level of strategic unity of effort and purpose hitherto unknown between nation-states.
The EU? Such is the scale of the crisis that the battle between Germany, the Euro-federalists and the states must be put to one side. This is a pan-European crisis that can only be resolved with pan-European solutions. Such solutions must necessarily include a collective (not necessarily common) effort to secure the EU’s external borders, some sharing of the refugee burden, and support for those ‘front-line’ member-states bearing the brunt of the crisis. The alternative is a continuation of the ‘beggar thy neighbour’ policies that are so damaging Europe, and which in 2016 could bring the EU to its knees.
The bottom-line is this; If during 2016 European leaders cannot demonstrate to European citizens that control is being re-exerted and soon trust will collapse and the migrant crisis will merge with the threat posed by ISIS and others to create a clear and present danger to Europe. In such circumstances Britain would almost certainly leave the EU possibly triggering a wave of defections from EU structures which for all their excessive over-regulation and self-centralising and aggrandising tendencies remain a bulwark against a return to extremism in all of its forms in Europe, much though they need to be reformed.
However, perhaps the most startling figure is this; there are 1.3 billion people living in states that are either at risk of collapse or in extreme poverty (or both) who are within people-smuggling range of Europe. If even a small percentage of that group begin to move north and west the current migration flows could look like a trickle and the current crisis will turn into a full-scale disaster.
Indeed, if uncontrolled migration flows into Europe continue on the scale experienced in 2015 Western Europe in particular will be changed forever. Indeed, the very intolerances and hatreds from which the Middle East is suffering and which are now being imported daily into Europe will inevitably lead to an increase in cultural friction and the growing threat of Islamist terrorism. Worse, if unchecked the very liberalism Western Europeans rightly pride themselves on and which is already under pressure from radical Islamism and right-wing populism could well be destroyed. Those are the stakes leaders. Face them.
Europe: unsafe haven