The Ever-Rising Deadly Toll of Europe’s Insane Migrant Policy
The numbers are horrifying: 2,408 people dead in the Mediterranean; 365 dead in North Africa; 35 dead in Europe.
A rash of horrific terrorist attacks this year? No, just Europe’s policy — or lack thereof — toward immigrants, and its grisly toll over seven months. Europe’s ad-hoc entry system is cruel to war refugees and cruel to economic migrants, too.
Two years ago, as newcomers arrived on boats across the Mediterranean via lawless Libya, crowding coastal areas of Greece and Italy, Germany did something that won plaudits. Chancellor Angela Merkel informally suspended the requirement that asylum-seekers register in their first port of entry, allowing people to make their way further west. The implied promise of German residency created chaos.
Merkel’s policy ostensibly targeted Syrians fleeing ISIS and war. But the message reached the world. More than a million people crossed that year. Some war refugees found a safe haven. More than 350,000 Syrians applied for asylum. But with no way to record who has entered, it’s impossible to know if asylum applications are representative of where migrants are from.
Last week, “dozens” of migrants landed a small boat from Morocco on a Spanish beach and ran off, according to witnesses. The same day on the same route, European officials rescued 25 men from sub-Saharan Africa.
That week, drivers found three stowaways from Sudan and Eritrea hiding beneath buses near Paris’ Eiffel Tower, hoping to sneak a ride into Britain.
Why does it matter where migrants are from, and who they are? A policy of taking in anyone who can physically make an arduous trip is compassionate to no one.
Europe’s non-policy favors men and boys who are strong enough to have a chance on a journey that involves being trafficked by smugglers across dangerous desert and water.
Many don’t make it. Credible reports have smugglers holding people captive for months, selling people as slaves or forcing migrants to kill one another.
It’s cruel to dangle the promise of Europe only for people who risk death, enslavement and torture. It’s also cruel to ignore those who often can’t even try: families, the elderly, the disabled, women and girls who don’t want to risk rape and those with no money to pay for passage.
This ad-hoc system also fails to distinguish between war refugees and economic migrants, who likely make up the majority. One route takes African migrants through Libya to Italy. About 100,000 people have made the trip this year.
Thousands of girls are trapped selling their bodies in Italy to pay off their passage. These sex slaves contract HIV from much older men who refuse to wear condoms. And they’re subject to violence. “Between 1994 and 1998, at least a hundred and sixteen Nigerian sex workers were murdered in Italy,” The New Yorker notes in a story about one teenage girl, Blessing, who made the journey.
Many such asylum seekers are pulled rather than pushed — pulled by a Europe that offers unrealistic notions of the protection it can offer to an unaccompanied minor.
Absent action, the problem will get harder, as poverty and population pressures grow.
Europe’s response is hardly improving. France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, has bought 62 hotels to shelter thousands of people far from jobs and opportunity.
Europe’s other strategy is to hope that migrant numbers fall naturally as horrific conditions act as a deterrent.
Europe can do better — first by prioritizing war refugees, and not the ones who can walk across a continent. Europe should conduct its asylum interviews in existing refugee camps closer to war zones.
People are rational. They should know before they attempt a perilous crossing that turning up in Europe will put them at a disadvantage for education, a work permit or residency.
As for economic migrants: It usually goes unspoken that Europe cannot offer entry to everyone who doesn’t like life in a poor country. An annual quota — with interviews also conducted in applicants’ home countries — is arbitrary, yes. So is hoping that you won’t be sold as human chattel in Libya under the current ad-hoc system.
The humane response to someone like Blessing might have been a seemingly hardhearted deterrent: the certainty that Italy would fly her back upon arrival to her mother in Nigeria.
This piece originally appeared in the New York Post
This piece originally appeared in New York Post