The European Commission has referred three member states to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over their refusal to accept the 160,000 refugees allocated to them by Brussels.
Poland and Hungary have taken none and the Czech Republic has accepted just 12 of the 2,000 migrants for whom it was supposed to provide shelter. The Czech, Hungarian, Slovak and Romanian parliaments have all voted agains accepting any refugees and the Hungarian and Slovak have themselves gone to the ECJ to challenge the Brussels’ order they accept asylum seekers.
The number of migrants allocated to each EU state was based on the country’s wealth. Yet interestingly Denmark and Austria, both richer than the East European states resisting Brussels, have taken few migrants but have not been included in the Commission’s ECJ action.
On a moral level, the attitude of these states is completely indefensible. But there is another argument they are putting forward that cannot be dismissed so easily. This is that the more migrants who are given homes in Europe, the more will be encouraged to come. This is best illustrated by the flow through Libya. Ever since European naval forces and some nine non-government organizations began picking up migrants at sea the flow of largely sub-Saharan Africans has increased many times. So too has the number of those who set off in hope of a better life in Europe but perished in the Mediterranean. For ruthless Libyan people-smugglers this is a boosted commercial opportunity of which they are taking full advantage. They are not even bothering to fuel outboard motors for more than a few miles travel.
This massive movement of people to the wealthy European continent has no obvious end. For Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, there is a clear need for shelter from their war-torn countries. However for many African migrants, the risky trip across the Sahara and the Mediterranean is undertaken for economic not asylum reasons.
In social and political, if not economic terms, Europe has a finite capacity to welcome and integrate more migrants. Of equal concern must be the impact on the EU’s established Muslim communities as racist parties use the migrant issue to stir up Islamophobia. Brussels in fact has the answer but seems incapable of implementing it. Every new arrival needs to be checked and if they are found to have come purely for economic reasons, they should be sent home. This includes economic migrants with professional skills. Nurses and doctors from Africa are desperately needed back in the home countries that trained them, not working the wards of European hospitals.
The essence is that Europe must continue to extend a welcome to those who come in fear and poverty from conflict regions, where if they stayed their lives would be in danger. But if Brussels continues in its failure to sift out economic migrants, the social tensions across the continent will rise and all non-white ethnic communities will be placed in danger. At the moment the EU Commission is once again demonstrating its inefficiency in the face of pressing problems. Hungary in particular deserves censure for its reprehensible incarceration of migrants who arrived before it erected its razor-wire frontier walls. But mistreatment of migrants and the implications of those flooding to Europe for purely economic reasons are two issues that need separate consideration.