The tragic death of Aylan Kurdi shed lights on the lives of refugees taking risks and fleeing their countries in hopes of finding a better life in Europe. The cold body of the three-year-old has opened hearts of millions of people around the word, even the one of the British Prime Minister David Cameron who was famous for his skepticism and reluctance toward accepting refugees in the United Kingdom. Many European countries have declared that they will welcome more refugees in their territory. As heartbreaking are the lives of the refugees back home, it is not clear whether their lives will get better even after they settle in Europe. Due to overpopulation, political fracture and human rights abuse, Europe is likely to go through a struggle for short period of time in the future with unending wave of migrants flowing in.
Around the globe, the number of people displaced from their home countries due to conflict is highest ever in record. According to N. Lindborg (2015), it is roughly between 58 to 60 million, which is equal to the total population of Italy. The numbers in this figure are include people from Syria and Iraq, while vast flow of population is expected to flow into Europe from places other than these two countries also. Currently, developing countries that are hosting the majority of refugees from Syria are Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The estimated number of refugees staying in these countries was 3.6 million and more are expected to come. Also, one in four people is a Syrian refugee in Lebanon and in Irbil, the northern part of Iraq, one in five people are either a Syrian refugee or a displaced Iraqi from ISIS violence. Since the international humanitarian funding cannot support the vast amount of population, the conditions of overcrowded make-shift shelters are squalid.
Figure 1. A syrian refugee girl fills water from a tanker to her tent on the outskirts of Marfraq (Muheisen, 2015).
- Such refugee camps now have been lying empty as most Syrians started to move into other parts of Middle East or Europe in hopes of finding a better life. The size of the once fourth largest Syrian refugee camp has shrunk to almost one third of its former size. Once the population torrent sweeps across Europe, it is likely that some problems regarding overpopulation will arise. Since most of European countries are suffering low birth rate and aging population, it might be seem as a way to boost population growth. However, the biggest problem of population growth arises from fixed supply of land. Unnatural population growth is likely to cause a steep surge in property and housing prices in a country. According to the report on the impact of immigration from the UK House of Lords, most of the immigrants tend to demand smaller housing compared to that of average native citizen, but in the long run when the migrants settle into the society successfully with a job, their housing demands would be equivalent to that of the native population. Then, there is a possibility that already heightened housing prices will skyrocket due to increased demand in the long run.
Figure 2. Europe’s Migrant Crisis (Reuters, 2015).
Migrants who have arrived with hopes of having a better life are not welcome in most European states, and the EU has to strain toward reaching a consensus on refugee crisis. Following the Greek debt crisis, national interests have consistently been the decisive, overriding factors among Europe to recent migrant influx. Such trend is most obvious in the regions where they accept most of the migrants in Eastern and Southern Europe. Unfortunately, most migrants would have to arrive in one of those nations that are harsh toward migrant for these countries are situated in the Mediterranean or the easternmost side of the Union. J. Park (2015) mentions
In Italy, illegal migrants face punishments under Bossi-Fini immigration law which stipulates that migrants must secure contracts before entering the country. This law makes illegal migration and aiding migrants punishable by fine or jail. In Greece, the prolonged detention of migrants and asylum seekers are sometimes mixed in with criminal detainees. In Hungary, a new series of emergency laws adopted in September 2015 will allow its police to operate detention centers, in addition to making illegal border crossings and aiding migrants punishable by prison time. (2015).
Most countries have not adopted the laws that have physical effects as stated above, yet many other nations have followed the precedents, and have showed signs of concern for taking in refugees, or even implemented laws to selectively accept refugees by their religions. Council of Foreign Relations (2015) also mentions,
Countries like France and Denmark have also cited security concerns as justification for their reluctance in accepting migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in the wake of the Paris and Copenhagen terrorist shootings in early 2015. Underscoring this point, leaders of eastern European states like Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic have all recently expressed a strong preference for non-muslim migrants. In August 2015, Slovakia announced that it would only accept Christian refugees from Syria. Poland has similarly focused ongranting Syrian Christian asylum, and have publicly announced that the applicants’ religious background will have an impact on their refugee status applications. (2015).
Although selecting migrants based on religion is a clear violation of the EU’s non-discrimination laws, these countries have maintained their positions or policies by urging their native population’s discomfort with growing Muslim communities. Opposed to these responses, Germany is trying to accept more immigrants and pull some strings to reach the balance in the issue.
The founding principles and values of European Union are human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. One of the reason why some affluent western European states are trying to open doors for refugees is to adhere to their core founding values. However, current conditions of refugees in the largest camps are inhumane. In the case of Hungary, they were accused of treating refugees like “animals in zoos” or like “cattle in pen,” throwing breads and food over the fence where refugees are situated. They did not provide medical assistance to those with heart attacks, insulin shock, seizures and the newborns with serious fever. Human Rights Watch (2015), Rawan Ati, a refugee in the center, told in an interview,
When we crossed into Hungary the police sent us to a camp that was very dirty, like a place for animals. It was a closed camp and the conditions were horrible. When people tried to escape they were brought back. We slept for two days outside on towels. Nobody made special arrangements for the baby, they gave us no milk and treated us very badly. They talked to us rudely, and they treated us very inhumanely, like we were slaves. (2015).
Figure 3. Hungary Refugee Camp Like ‘Cattle in Pens’. (International Business Times, 2015).
The conditions in Greece is not different. Even though it has been a while since they have set up refugee camps in Lesbos, there are not enough infrastructure that can support existing, more or less growing population of migrants. A Greece specialist E. Cosse (2015). mentioned,
After months with huge numbers of people arriving in Lesbos, the authorities still don’t have an effective system for registering people so that they can travel onward. This is causing unnecessary security problems for the police and hardship for asylum seekers and migrants, especially for women and children and people with disabilities who can’t force their way to the head of the registration line … It is appalling to see children with medical conditions and disabilities lying in the dirt as flies buzz around their eyes. The authorities should coordinate with humanitarian groups to ensure that people with particular needs are identified quickly and ensured access to the registration process and unhindered access to doctors. (2015).
With the nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister initiating nation-wide anti-immigrant campaigns, it is hard to tell when the refugee crisis and disagreements between national leaders will subside. However, it is certain that with such appalling incidents happening onward, it is impossible for the union to move forward from the chain of crisis that has hit Europe.
The migrants are facing dire conditions in Europe, or in a passage to get to Europe. Europe, still in a strife to reach a harmonious way to resolve the situation, is likely to suffer from some problems such as overpopulation, political fracture and human rights abuse for short period of time in the future. This writing is limited to the short-term effects of current problems of migrant crisis. The effect of massive migration on overpopulation in Europe was dealt with lightly in the writing, but could be researched in-depth in the future. The sketch of the conditions the refugees are under described in the writing could inspire the readers to contemplate on the issue once again and work on to make a better world where a toddler do not drown helplessly while finding hope.
- Bajekal, N. (2015). Inside the Syria Refugee Camps Where Childhood Doesn’t Exist. Retrieved October 17, 2015 from http://time.com/3987244/syrian-refugees-mafraq-jordan/
- House of Lords – Select Committee on Economic Affairs. (2008) The Economic Impact of Immigration: 1st Report of Session 2007-08. Retrieved October 10, 2015 from https://books.google.co.kr/books?id=1dhHkoNcZosC&pg=PA53&dq=economic+impact+of+refugees+in+Europe&hl=ko&sa=X&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAWoVChMIsoLM7b23yAIVxtumCh1JYwVS
- Human Rights Watch. (2015). Greece: Chaos, Insecurity in Registration Center. Retrieved October 17, 2015 from https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/10/12/greece-chaos-insecurity-registration-center
- Human Rights Watch. (2015). Hungary: Abysmal Conditions in Border Detention. Retrieved October 17, 2015 from https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/09/11/hungary-abysmal-conditions-border-detention
- International Buisness Times. (2015). Hungary Refugee Camp Like ‘Cattle in Pens’. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/eu-migrant-crisis-hungary-refugee-camp-like-cattle-pens-video-reveals-1519383
- Lindborg, N. (2015). The Migrant Crisis in Europe. Retrieved October 17, 2015 from http://www.cfr.org/migration/migrant-crisis-europe/p37028
- Muheisen, M. (2015). A syrian refugee girl fills water from a tanker to her tent on the outskirts of Marfraq. Retrieved from http://time.com/3987244/syrian-refugees-mafraq-jordan/
- Park, J. (2015). Europe’s Migration Crisis. Retrieved October 17, 2015 from http://www.cfr.org/migration/europes-migration-crisis/p32874
- Reuters. (2015). Europe’s Migrant Crisis. Retrieved October 17, 2015 from http://www.cfr.org/migration/europes-migration-crisis/p32874
- Rothman, L. (2015). The U.N.’s Original Refugees. Retrieved October 10, 2015 from http://time.com/4022123/refugee-history-migrant-crisis/