MADRID – Over the past seven years, Europe has been in crisis mode almost without interruption. From Ukraine to Greece, events have led the continent from the frying pan to the fire and back again, with all of the attendant summitry, declarations, and brinkmanship. Now, it is a migration crisis – one that is unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future – that is commanding the European Union’s attention. But, if Europe is to respond effectively, it must move beyond crisis mode to understand both what it is facing and what it wants to achieve.
It is indisputable that migration deserves the EU’s focus. Not only are migrant flows into Europe shattering records from one month to the next; migrants’ primary entry points are changing as well. Meanwhile, the already-hazy lines between asylum-seekers, refugees, displaced persons, and purely economic migrants are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish at all.
The dangerous conditions of the migrants’ journey constitute a serious humanitarian crisis. Since the beginning of this year, roughly 2,500 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean, to say nothing of gruesome scenes like the recent discovery of 71 decomposing bodies in an abandoned truck in Austria. Thousands more languish in makeshift camps with little or no support.
To make matters worse, there has been a steady stream of migration-related violence across Europe, from an arson attack on a planned refugee shelter in Germany to police brutality against migrants in Macedonia and Hungary. The port of Calais has become a chokepoint of the crisis, with migrants desperately trying to force their way onto trucks and trains bound for the United Kingdom.