27. August 2016 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „The Guardian view on Europe and migration: the year of living damagingly“ · Kategorien: Europa, Lesetipps · Tags:

Quelle: The Guardian

Twelve months ago, Europe failed to rise to the challenge of the Syrian refugee crisis. It is still paying the price – and so are the refugees

Not every big issue that Europe has faced over the past 12 months has been linked to the migration and refugee crisis. But most of them have. The arrival of over 1 million people in late summer 2015 shook European politics and institutions, as well as challenging Europe’s awareness of itself and its place in the world more than any event since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It would be foolish to imagine that this crisis is now over and that the numbers will not rise again.

One key moment came in late August 2015, when Germany announced it would accept all Syrian refugees fleeing war without sending them back to the countries where they had first entered the EU. Angela Merkel’s words a few days later, “Wir schaffen das” (we will manage), felt pivotal, although whether the German chancellor really did open the floodgates of a vast refugee movement is still debated. Refugees had, after all, been on the move for months already in their hundreds of thousands. Harrowing pictures of overcrowded voyages to reach Europe were familiar. Long before Germany opened its doors, southern EU countries were facing a critical situation, their administrations and social services overwhelmed.

Many, including the Guardian, applauded Mrs Merkel’s humanitarian lead. Yet it cannot be disputed that in many ways Europe then failed the moral test. The worst refugee crisis in modern Europe has had a transformative effect that few had predicted or prepared for. The EU, Europe’s nation states, and Europeans in general have all been weighed in the balance. On the political level the migration crisis has empowered nationalist and populist parties, which have since grown in influence from Austria to Scandinavia in ways that may last. Brexit might not have happened without the worries fed by Europe’s refugee problem and their exploitation in Ukip’s posters. Chaos and misery at borders, from Calais in the north to Kos and Lampedusa in the south, exposed the EU’s divisions and inefficiency, energising centrifugal political pressures whose impact on the union may not end with Brexit.

A key pillar of the EU project, the passport-free Schengen area created in 1995, remains in disarray. Schengen was suspended last February, and there is still no clarity as to how it might be restored. Across the continent, internal border controls that had once been abolished – and in some places, barbed-wire fences with police using tear gas against refugees – have become the new normal. These reflect not just a spike of illiberalism caused by reactions to the refugees but the EU’s longterm failure to control its external borders effectively. Unless the external borders are controlled and managed, perhaps by the now strengthened EU border force, freedom of movement inside the bloc merely compounds the problems.

A year ago Europeans finally grasped that their own world is not shielded from the chaos of the Middle East and of parts of Africa and Asia. In the aftermath, geopolitics have been upended. European relations with Turkey have been transformed in the effort to stem the arrival of refugees across the Aegean sea. Mrs Merkel has been much criticised, this time for her realpolitik rather than her humanity, but the deal has brought the numbers down (while displacing some of the pressure to the Libya-Italy crossing). There have been EU efforts to get sub-Saharan countries to take back migrants not entitled to asylum, in exchange for development aid, but such aid has been patchy at best. Though most victims of war and poverty have stayed in their regions, the exodus will not stop until those regions are helped to become safer and more prosperous.

In spite of endless summitry and talks over refugee quotas, in which Britain played a strikingly minimal role, Europe has shown itself mostly at a loss. In dealing with Turkey as it did, it has harmed some of its human rights principles. The onslaught of terrorism in France and elsewhere has fed paranoia about migrants. Identity politics is on the rise almost everywhere. Anti-Muslim movements, such as the AfD in Germany, have benefited. France remains convulsed by issues like the burkini, in spite of today’s welcome court decision suspending a local ban. On the other hand, there have also been the many gestures of solidarity and humanity. Citizens’ networks have distributed food, clothes and offered housing. Volunteers have thrown themselves into support efforts on the beaches and in the camps. “Refugees welcome” slogans have been hoisted on homes, football stadiums, places of worship and even government buildings.

In the year since Alan Kurdi’s body was found on a beach, Europeans have been found wanting. They have learned that what goes on in the rest of the world affects them more than they thought – a glumly late illumination after Europe has had so much impact on the world. Europeans have been confronted with the truth that theirs is one of the richest parts of the planet and that many desperate people, some fleeing for their lives, want to reach it. How Europe responds in the longer term remains in the balance. But the past year has been a humbling start.

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