Tuesday, February 07, 2017

European Trumpism on immigration and refugees

The Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán "will introduce measures within weeks to hold immigrants in detention “shelters” indefinitely in order to stop them traveling freely within Europe, his spokesman said on Monday," reports Politico EU (Tom McTague, Hungary hardens immigration line 02/07/2017).

Orbán's approach to government is often called "illiberal democracy." His politics fit broadly into the Trumputist umbrella. And according to McTague's report, Trump is providing validation and encouragement for Orbán's approach, at least by example:

Under Orbán’s proposal, those entering Hungary illegally — even if they are fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa — will be kept in government camps, banned from moving freely within Hungary, until their status has been resolved, which could take “months.” ...

Budapest has clashed with Brussels before on the issue, most notably last year when it rejected an EU refugee resettlement plan and in 2015 when Hungarian police fired tear gas and water cannons against migrants on its border. But Orbán’s government has been emboldened by the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. In a speech last month, Orbán welcomed Trump’s election, saying it heralds a new age where countries are free to put their interests first. “The era of multilateralism is at an end, and the era of bilateral relations is upon us,” he said. ...

The election of Trump has also given Hungary’s government fresh confidence to pursue its agenda. “The change in the perception of the United States has helped,” [Orbán spokesman Zoltan] Kovacs said.
With Trump expressing hostility toward the EU as such, the refugee crisis becomes even more of a problem for the EU and its main leader, Angela Merkel.

And this again brings into sharp relief the deficiency of Merkel's extend-and-pretend method of addressing EU problems. I'm including here again a documentary video that I recently posted, the second part of the Aljazeera Big Picture documentary called, The Making And Breaking Of Europe 02/03/2017, which is particularly good in discussing how the nationalist sentiment against Greece over their debt crisis, actively encouraged by Merkel and her party and her coalition partners the Social Democrats, and supported by the other EU countries under pressure from Germany, fed into the narrow nationalist response by so many EU countries over the refugee crisis.

Merkel's policy in Greece was extend-and-pretend on a grand scale, avoiding a full-blown default but imposing draconian austerity measures that not only a healthy economic recovery impossible, but also extends the debt crisis itself indefinitely.

She also applied that approach to the refugee crisis, which has been at the crisis stage since at least 2011. That's six years ago now. Because of the geography, Turkey and EU member Greece landed with heavy responsibility for it from the start. (See Greece completes anti-migrant fence at Turkish border Ekathimerini 17.12.2012)

The Libya intervention gave a significant boost to the refugee flow. EU members France and Britain took the lead in that intervention, with of course support from the US under President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Libya previously absorbed a lot of refugees from Northern Africa, like those from Eritrea. (Migrant crisis: EU leaders agree plan to stop Libya influx BBC News 02/03/2017)

But this BBC News report from 2015 shows the countries of origin of most of the refugees in the year that Merkel was forced to recognize the crisis in a newly dramatic way and failed to push most other EU countries into compliance with her desire to resettle them across the EU: Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained in seven charts 03/04/2016.

The leading countries of origin reported by the BBC at that time were, largest to smallest numbers, were Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iran and Ukraine.

Wars generate refugees. Wars in the Middle East generate refugees into Europe.

Now there are new strains on Greece's capacity to house the refugees. (Commission awards €3.9 million in emergency funding to Greece to help improve reception conditions on the Greek islands European Commission 02/06/2017)

Rescue.org as of this writing has a featured Greece crisis briefing which apparently dates from around September 2016.

And, oh yeah, the Greek debt crisis continues, of course: Investors in Greece fear ‘accident’ as debt payment time nears Ekathimerini 02/07/2017; Helena Smith, Grexit? Greece again on the brink as debt crisis threatens break with EU Guardian 02/03/2017.

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