REFUGEES are reasonable people in desperate circumstances. Life for many of the 1m-odd asylum-seekers who have fled Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war-torn countries for Europe in the past year has become intolerable. Europe is peaceful, rich and accessible. Most people would rather not abandon their homes and start again among strangers. But when the alternative is the threat of death from barrel-bombs and sabre-wielding fanatics, they make the only rational choice.
The flow of refugees would have been manageable if European Union countries had worked together, as Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has always wished (and The Economist urged). Instead Germany and Sweden have been left to cope alone. Today their willingness to do so is exhausted. Unless Europe soon restores order, political pressure will force Mrs Merkel to clamp down unilaterally, starting a wave of border closures (see article). More worrying, the migrant crisis is feeding xenophobia and political populism. The divisive forces of right-wing nationalism have already taken hold in parts of eastern Europe. If they spread westward into Germany, France and Italy then the EU could tear itself apart.
The situation today is a mess. Refugees have been free to sail across the Mediterranean, register and make for whichever country seems most welcoming. Many economic migrants with no claim to asylum have found a place in the queue by lying about where they came from. This free-for-all must be replaced by a system in which asylum applicants are screened when they first reach Europe’s borders—or better still, before they cross the Mediterranean. Those who are ineligible for asylum should be sent back without delay; those likely to qualify should be sent on to countries willing to accept them.
Order on the border
Creating a well-regulated system requires three steps. The first is to curb the “push factors” that encourage people to risk the crossing, by beefing up aid to refugees, particularly to the victims of the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, including the huge number who have fled to neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. The second is to review asylum claims while refugees are still in centres in the Middle East or in the “hotspots” (mainly in Greece and Italy), where they go when they first arrive in the EU. The third element is to insist that asylum-seekers stay put until their applications are processed, rather than jumping on a train to Germany.
All these steps are fraught with difficulty. Consider the “push factors” first. The prospect of ending Syria’s civil war is as remote as ever: peace talks in Geneva this week were suspended without progress. But the EU could do a lot more to help refugees and their host countries. Scandalously, aid for Syrians was cut in 2015 even as the war grew bloodier: aid agencies got a bit more than half of what they needed last year, according to the UN. Donors at a conference on Syria in London this week were asked for $9 billion for 2016—about as much as Germans spend on chocolate every year. Far more is needed and will be needed every year for several years.
Europe’s money should be used not only to feed and house refugees but also to coax host countries into letting them work. For the first four years of the conflict Syrians were denied work permits in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Recently Turkey has begun to grant them. Donors should press Jordan and Lebanon to follow. European cash could help teach the 400,000 refugee children in Turkey who have no classes.
Pour lire en entier : http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21690028-european-problem-demands-common-coherent-eu-policy-let-refugees-regulate