Europe moves toward a unified migrants policy, but divisions remain

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Migrants in Sicily

The European Commission has approved financing of €2.4 billion to tackle issues surrounding increased migration, around a flurry of incidents that have occurred in recent months. The approval means funds will flow to Italy, Greece, and other “frontline” countries, as well as other nations that have seen high numbers of migrants in recent years.

The Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, set up last year, seeks to harmonise the way EU members treat migrants and asylum seekers, leading toward a more common European policy. The EU has been called on recently as having certain countries not taking responsibility, whilst others experience higher volumes of migrants and asylum seekers, particularly from Africa and the Middle East.

Part of the funds will also go to Frontex, the European Union unified border control agency, to step up patrols of land boarders as well as the Mediterranean.

Migrants in real numbers

Whilst the new measures are a move in the right direction for an issue that has seen many thousands of people make dangerous trips, some with loss of life, the package seems weak to the most affected countries like Italy and Greece. France and the United Kingdom have also experienced migrant crises in the past few months, with issues surrounding the Channel Tunnel entrance in Calais leading to desperate conditions for migrants. Thousands have been trying to gain access to the United Kingdom to access what they feel would be a better life. Immigration, both legal and illegal, tends to be a divisive subject in the United Kingdom, with populist anti-immigration and anti-EU political party UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) having gained much traction in the past few years.

Whilst true that the United Kingdom has seen a rise in the number of legal immigrants from both inside and outside of the EU in the past 10 years, it would seem that illegal migrants and asylum seekers are opting to try their chances elsewhere. Germany received 73,135 asylum applications this year, with Hungary, Italy, France and Sweden all receiving higher numbers than the UK. The situation at Calais is dire, and a tragedy for those involved, but the response from the media in the UK seems to be exaggerating the problem.

Meanwhile, other EU countries, particularly those in the east, are being accused of not taking their share of immigrants. Some in the European government want a system where each member state takes a certain number of all migrants and asylum seekers – a rather unpopular approach in countries like Poland who traditionally don’t have large migrant populations, and fear that integration would be impossible.

Clearly, Europe needs a more coherent and stable migrant and asylum policy; a balance between the burdens countries like Italy, Greece and Germany bear, and the needs of thousands of desperate migrants who are looking for a better life.

Image credit: Wikipedia

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