The EU Migration Crisis and Moral Obligations


The European Union is currently coping with the world’s biggest migrant crisis since World War II. A record number of 107,500 migrants reached the EU’s borders last month.Large numbers of desparate migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa are trying to enter the European Union every day. Apart from this there are also many illegal immigrants who have entered the EU undetected. A conserable number of them have died during their attempt. According to a report of the UNHCR, around 2500 migrants who were trying to reach and enter the European Union have died or gone missing in the past year.

For example, on 27 August, 2 boats from Zuwara, Libya, with around 500 migrants, sunk. On that same day, the bodies of 27 immigrants (presumably illegal Syrian immigrants) were found in an abandoned lorry in Austria.  Europe has a moral and humanitarian obligation to act and take adequate measures. If the European Union falls short, people from countries at war will continue to put their lives at risk and do whatever they can in order to enter the European Union. 

The lucky migrants that succeed at entering the European Union  are confronted with a bureaucratic asylum procedure. Often migrants are being stopped from travelling to their final destination. The Dublin Regulation allows European Union countries to deport migrants back to the first country where they entered the European Union.  However, most asylum seekers do not wish to stay in the first EU country that they enter. And often these countries in the periphery of the EU are least able to handle the arrival of migrants. The Dublin regulation prevents an even allocation of refugees in the European Union. 

On Monday 31 August German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French president, François Hollande, had a meeting to discuss the European migrant crisis.  “If we don't succeed in fairly distributing refugees, then some people will want to put the Schengen question on the agenda,” Merkel said during a press conference on Monday 31 August. Without the redistribution of refugees, the ideal of free movement and the passport free Schengen zone of 26 countries are under threat. Merkel warns that this is not the aim:  "We want a fair allocation of refugees and then we won't have to discuss Schengen…there's no point in publicly calling each other names, but we must simply say that the current situation is not satisfactory."

In order to deal with the migration crisis, the home affairs ministers of all the member states of the European Union will come together to hold an emergency meeting on 14 September. After this, a summit of the leaders of all EU countries will follow.

François Crépeau,  a UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants also claims that the European Union countries should cooperate to ensure an equitable distribution of migrants. Crépeau is of the opinion that the migration policy of the EU to keep migrants from coming to the EU is not working

Migration is here to stay [...] Building fences, using tear gas and other forms of violence against migrants and asylum seekers, detention, withholding access to basics such as shelter, food or water and using threatening language or hateful speech will not stop migrants from coming or trying to come to Europe.”

Therefore, in the opinion of the UNHCR, EU member states should cooperate to create a better functioning migration system and policy to ensure freedom of movement, the empowerment of migrants and effectively combat the smuggling of migrants: "The European Union should establish a human rights-based, coherent and comprehensive migration policy which makes mobility its central asset".

The special rapporteur also warns against anti-migrant sentiments and xenophobia (fear of aliens) and that the EU should ensure a humane treatment of migrants:

Migrants are human beings with rights. When we dehumanize others, we dehumanize ourselves.” Political leaders should “show moral and political leadership in fighting much more vigorously racism, xenophobia and hate crime, in consolidating the common human rights culture that is now framing the evolution of all traditions, in strengthening the free movement of persons throughout the EU while developing regulated mobility solutions at its external borders, and in celebrating the diversity of cultures and religions as enrichment for everyone, citizens and foreigners alike.”

The UNHCR advises EU countries to act with consideration, responsibility and solidarity: "[The] UNHCR appeals to all governments involved to provide comprehensive responses and act with humanity and in accordance with their international obligations. All European countries and the EU must act together in response to the growing emergency and demonstrate responsibility and solidarity."