Friday 26 February 2016

The European migrant crisis

Schengen will ‘break down’ in 10 days if no solution to migrant crisis found – EU commissioner

European Union Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos. © Francois Lenoir

25 February, 2016

There are only ten days left for European Union officials to significantly reduce the flow of migrants and asylum-seekers into the EU from Turkey, or the Schengen system is at risk of total collapse, according to the EU’s migration commissioner.
In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, told the media on Thursday.

The senior EU official's warning came after a Thursday meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels, where the officials had gathered to once again try to find a solution to the current migrant crisis.

On arriving for the meeting, Avramopoulos called it a “critical moment, the moment to deliver.”

Time is not with us anymore. There are only 10 days left till March 7,” he pointed out, referring to a special summit on the migration crisis that European Union leaders will hold with Turkey.

On migration, our joint action plan remains a priority, which is why we will organise a special meeting with Turkey on 7 March

Despite the Schengen’s free-travel rule, a number of the bloc’s members have resorted to unilateral border tightening to stem the tide of refugees. Calling on member-countries to “step up efforts” to remedy the situation, Avramopoulos said that there is “no time for uncoordinated actions.”

We all have responsibility to step up efforts to apply agreed European solutions. No time for uncoordinated actions.

Lonely initiatives do not lead anywhere,” the EU migration commissioner told reporters in Brussels.

This week, Belgium joined other countries that have temporarily abandoned Schengen rules allowing passport-free travel within the zone when it passed a measure increasing police presence along its borders. At the same time, Austria’s Defense Ministry has announced that it would dispatch more troops to its border to help deal with the crisis situation.

While the head of the EU’s border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, has warned that over a million refugees will arrive in the EU this year, the 28-state bloc has failed to agree on a common solution to stem the flow of migrants, who are primarily from the Middle East and Africa. Leggeri also pointed out that the Schengen agreement cannot function properly if the EU’s external borders are not protected effectively.
to hold referendum on migrant quota plan

A mandatory quota of migrants and refugees that EU countries would have to resettle on their territories is one of the solutions being proposed. Yet, some of the bloc’s members are firmly against this. On Wednesday, the government of Hungary, which has consistently rebuffed the mandatory quota idea, announced that it would call a national referendum to decide on the issue, counting on public sentiment to reject the EU proposal.

"We Are Heading Into Anarchy": Official Says EU Will "Completely Break Down In 10 Days"

25 February, 2016

Norwegian PM Erna Solberg doesn’t want to have to skirt her country’s responsibilities under the Geneva Convention and she doesn’t want to trample over human rights either, but she will if she has to.

"It is a force majeure proposals which we will have in the event that it all breaks down,” Solberg said, in an interview with Berlingske, describing new measures she believes Norway may have to take if Sweden buckles under the weight of the refugee influx which saw some 163,000 asylum seekers inundate the country last year.

Solberg is effectively prepared to turn everyone away and go into lockdown mode should everything fall apart completely, causing Europe to descend into some kind of lawless, Hobbesian, free-for-all.

If that sounds far-fetched or hyperbolic consider that on Thursday, EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned that the bloc has just 10 days to implement a plan that will bring about “tangible and clear results on the ground” or else “the whole system will completely break down.”

Avramopoulos also cautioned that a humanitarian crisis in Greece and in the Balkans is “very near.” Moves by countries to adopt ad hoc, state-specific measures to stem the flow are exacerbating the problem, the commissioner contends.

"We cannot continue to deal through unilateral, bilateral or trilateral actions; the first negative effects and impacts are already visible," he said. "We have a shared responsibility –- all of us -– towards our neighbouring states, both EU and non-EU, but also towards those desperate people."

By "the negative effects," of unilateral actions, Avramopoulos is likely referring to the bottlenecks that are leaving thousands stranded in the Balkans. The chokepoints are being pressured by a series of border fences that have been erected over the past six months and the problem is exacerbated by stepped up border checks. In short: we're witnessing the death of the bloc's beloved Schengen.

"Seven European states have already reinstated border controls within the cherished but creaking Schengen free-travel zone, putting huge strain on Greece, which can no longer wave the tide of arrivals from Turkey onward through the Balkans," Reuters writes. Earlier today, Athens recalled its Austrian ambassador. 

"Greece will not accept unilateral actions. Greece can also carry out unilateral actions," migration minister, Yannis Mouzalas told reporters on Thursday. "Greece will not accept becoming Europe’s Lebanon, a warehouse of souls, even if this were to be done with major [EU] funding.” 

On March 7, officials will attend a summit with Turkey where buy in from Ankara is critical if there's to be meaningful reduction in the flow of asylum seekers to Western Europe. Leaked documents recently showed President Erdogan is essentially attempting to blackmail Europe. "We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria at any time. We can put them on busses," he was quoted as saying, during a conversation with European Commissioner Jean Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk on 16th November 2015 during the G20 Summit in Antalya.

In addition to the seven states that have already reinstated border checks, more countries have promised to follow suit unless Erdogan and Tsipras can figure out a way to make progress in defending the bloc's external border.
Officials fear the onset of spring will embolden still more migrants to make the journey as warmer weather will thaw the Balkan route. On Wednesday, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban called for a referendum on the propsed quota system that Brusells hoped would help distribute and place refugees. It's only a matter of time before other countries conduct similar plebiscites.

Perhaps Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's foreign minister put it best: "The outlook is gloomy ... We have no policy any more. We are heading into anarchy."
Looks like Erna Solberg was right after all.

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