The European continent is not ready for a new mass migration and the effects of the uncontrolled influx of Afghans could be devastating.
Written by Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
The problems arising from the Afghan crisis seem to be endless. In addition to the security crisis, increased violence, diplomatic tensions and political instability, a huge wave of migration threatens the entire international society, especially the developed countries of the European Union, which are the destination of most refugees. Despite its humanitarian concerns, Europe is not prepared to receive a new wave of mass migrations and the EU is unlikely to abdicate its interests in the name of ideological principles.
In a recent report, the UN announced that about half a million Afghans are expected to leave the country by the end of the year. Expectations are worrying for the countries that will receive such migrants, as the flow may be intense and in a short period of time. In this sense, the EU immediately began to consider a new strategy to avoid a repetition of a scenario similar to the chaotic migration crisis of 2015.
Several media agencies are releasing a draft of the statement that will be announced by the ministers of the EU during the next summit, in which we have the following words: “Based on lessons learned, the EU and its member states stand determined to act against the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements faced in the past, by preparing a coordinated and orderly response”. Despite announcing the existence of a plan, the draft does not contain specific details about possible measures to be taken. This Tuesday, an emergency meeting between ministers is planned.
When the experience of 2015 is remembered, the current European concern becomes understandable. That year, an uncertain number between 220,000 and 350,000 migrants came from different countries in Africa and the Middle East and crossed the European borders. The peak of violence in the Syrian Civil War was one of the main reasons for the crisis. European governments simply lost control of the situation and were unable to prevent the entry of many illegal migrants.
The most disastrous episodes occurred in the sea crossing attempts. In the coast, the border patrols are weaker, and migrants have a better chance of success, so there were many crossing attempts. It is estimated that 3,500 people drowned during such attempts, mainly in the Mediterranean Sea. The EU had to formulate an immediate reception strategy to comply with its own humanitarian principles and avoid an even greater catastrophe. The effects of the crisis are still visible today, mainly in Germany and France, where social polarization is increasing day by day due to the number of foreign citizens.
If the situation was difficult to manage back then, today a similar scenario would be much worse. Europe is increasingly averse to the possibility of mass migrations. The structures of the European bloc currently do not allow a similar scenario to be formed as there would not be social and economic conditions to deal with such situation. The new coronavirus pandemic has profoundly affected European social stability and the continent is far from a full recovery. Contrary to what was expected, the vaccination did not bring any immediate effect to the return to normality.
Furthermore, recently, the migration issue itself has been treated in a less “humanitarian” way in Europe. France, one of the countries that most received foreigners in recent years, has started to establish stricter rules regarding the entry of foreigners, in addition to a series of cultural policies aimed at preventing the proliferation of possible extremist ideologies in Muslim communities. Germany, another country that traditionally receives large waves of immigrants, has an uncertain future with the end of the Merkel Administration. In other countries it is also possible to see a growing discontent with the migration scenario, such as Spain, which recently reacted rudely against the arrival of African migrants, expelling them immediately.
For these reasons, the European strategy for the Afghan crisis will consist of creating several effective measures to prevent a scenario like the one in 2015 from being formed. Brussels has already announced that it will provide financial assistance to Afghanistan to help the country in its economic recovery. This aid will also be sent to neighboring countries of Afghanistan so that they can deal with possible refugees. The aim is to foster conditions that prevent Afghans from arriving in Europe. To avoid a new crisis, the European bloc is even willing to negotiate with the Taliban. Just as EU states signed agreements with the Taliban to guarantee the safety of European citizens leaving Afghan territory, it is possible that in the near future there will be agreements to prevent a new mass migration.
Obviously, the recommendation of the United Nations is for all States to be prepared to deal with the crisis, sharing a global common “humanitarian responsibility”. But this liberal idealism is getting weaker in the European space. Amidst the economic instability that has already left 15 million unemployed in the bloc and the health crisis that threatens to be aggravated by the arrival of thousands of unvaccinated migrants, Western democracies will be very cautious in defending their own values and probably will not risk worsening the social polarization that already affects the European continent.
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