This will be remembered as the year when Europe experienced the biggest displacement of people since the second world war. As the latest report (published last Friday) by the International Organisation for Migration shows, a record 473,887 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far in 2015, including at least 182,000 Syrians – almost 40% of the total.He makes the point that is critical to understanding why the refugee crisis is a sign of such massive failure within the EU and why it is intertwined with the euro crisis:
It began years ago. What countries such as Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia or Hungary are experiencing now is something that has been present for years in Greece, Macedonia and Italy, especially Lampedusa. The only reason the refugee crisis is now in the spotlight lies in a banal but brutal fact: it has penetrated from the periphery of Europe to the heart of the European Union.(A significant number of refugees into Europe also come from Africa.
Furthermore, the real causes go back much earlier than the war in Syria. Although it is being presented as a “natural disaster”, this is a result of very concrete politics that can be traced back to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
This crisis displays the same attitude of dominance by the "core" countries over the "periphery" that we see in the euro crisis. It is the same extend-and-pretend approach of creating short-term mitigation solutions that actually deepen the underlying crisis and make it more intractable. It's the same attitude of nationalist particularism that we see in the euro crisis exercised by the "core" countries against the "periphery."
The Merkel-friendly German President (head of state), Joachim Gauck, made a public intervention to criticize the language used by some of Merkel's CDU officials, notably Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Gauck warned against using "horror scenarios" and inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric. Schäuble, pandering to xenophobic sentiment, recently compared the inflkux of refugees to an avalanche into a valley. (Florian Gathmann und Philipp Wittrock, Schäubles Lawinen-Vergleich: Der Polarisierer Spiegel Online 12.11.2015)
After getting favorable and gullible press coverage for her announcement in September that refugees were welcome in German and playing the "compassionate pastor's daughter" (mitfühlende Pastorentochter), Merkel's government has now agreed to attempt to go back to the "Dublin III" approach, in which refugees would be contained in the EU countries in which they first arrived. Germany could then play the high-minded, compassionate power while the refugees were stuffed into inadequate processing centers which the receiving countries like Greece don't have the resources to manage properly. (Jürgen Klöckner, Warum die Regierung den heimlichen Kurswechsel in der Flüchtlingskrise kleinredet Huffington Post Deutschland 11/11/2015)
The SPD leadership is perfectly happy with this arrangement and are faithfully supporting the mitfühlende Pastorentochter as she panders to xenophobes with that policy. Meanwhile, her own party (CDU/CSU) gets to demand harsher measures against the refugees. Klöckner writes, "In diesen Tagen scheint es, als habe die Kanzlerin mehr Unterstützer in der SPD als in den eigenen Reihen." ("These days, it seems as though the Chancellor [Merkel] has more supporters in the SPD than in her own ranks.") Can the SPD get any more pitiful? Sadly, they probably can.
Martin Scultz is a German Social Democrat who is currently the President of the European Parliament. He is also a shameless Angie-bot. He echoes Merkel's demand for other countries to take on more refugees, a reasonable demand in itself: "Das größte Problem, das wir zur Zeit haben, ist, dass viel versprochen und wenig eingehalten wird", he says. ("The biggest problem we have right now is that a lot is promised but little carried out.") (EU-Parlamentspräsident zur Flüchtlingskrise: "Viel versprochen und wenig eingehalten" Spiegel Online 11.11.2015)
It's worth repeating that Merkel's September announcement was a typical Merkel extend-and-pretend move. It made her look like a generous and responsible leader to people who weren't paying close attention to the years-long refugee crisis. But it wasn't well thought out. And it was a substitute for the failure of the EU leadership, especially the EU's dominant power Germany, to address the problem in a sufficient way. And now her government is already trying to go back to the previous failed system of control.
The idea of confining them to refugee camps for extended periods isn't a good one. The camps now are often overcrowded and dangerous. (Peter Maxwill, Geschlecht und Asyl: Frauen und Kinder zuletzt Spiegel Online 09.09.2015)
Spiegel Online has a page listing key factual points out the refugee crisis, Asyl und Einwanderung: Fakten zur Flüchtlingskrise - endlich verständlich Spiegel Online; accessed 11/12/2015.
BBC News has some general information and graphics on the crisis: Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained in graphics 11/09/2015