Europe And Refugees

The Post has been churning out a fascinating set of articles by Europe-based reporter Rick Noack about the ongoing crisis of refugees reaching Europe from Iraq and Syria. Here’s a series of links with a brief description of each. This doesn’t begin to cover all the relevant articles, but hits on what I think are the deeper issues in play as Europe struggles to develop a coherent and unified policy with respect to the refugees. It’s the kind of reporting we used to be able to count on from national papers like the Post and  the Times, but which has been sorely lacking as international coverage is cut back.

So, some links for breakfast.

An analysis of the differing European policies regarding refugees and immigration, tying the responses to internal population trends and job prospects, is here. (9/8)

The reasons are many, but one stands out: demographics. In Germany, for instance, a rapidly aging population is becoming increasingly aware of the need to welcome foreigners. Other countries, where the aging trend is much less severe, have fewer incentives to welcome newcomers.

A closer look at the following maps, which compare demographic trends across Europe between 2001 and 2011, helps explain some of the reasons Europe is so divided on how to deal with refugees. The maps not only offer explanations: They also show which nations might be missing out on an opportunity for future growth.

Why German enthusiasm for accepting refugees might not last. (9/14)

When the German government closed its border to Austria on Sunday and reinstated controls and identity checks, some who oppose the influx felt vindicated. Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, said on Sunday that the measures had been taken for security reasons. However, he added that the move was also a warning to other E.U. countries to take in more refugees.

In taking those steps, Merkel is trying to balance the interests of her coalition partner, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which tends to be less supportive of accommodating refugees than the Social Democrats. The CSU, which is based in Bavaria close to the Austrian border, had sharply criticized the chancellor for her decision to allow tens of thousands of Syrians to cross the border in recent days.

Timo Lochocki, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, a transatlantic think tank, expects that Merkel and her coalition government will be able to preserve the public’s positive feelings about the influx at least until next spring. “Many Germans have enormous trust in the current government because they think it has mastered the Greek crisis perfectly,” Lochocki said. Germany’s tough stance toward Greece earned the country a reputation abroad as a  brutal enforcer of financial discipline. But that benefited Merkel at home. “After having been tough on Greece, she can now pursue an open arms policy for refugees.”

Denmark, “wonderland” of Scandinavia, is apparently not a very welcoming place (9/11), but migrants have to go through it in order to get to Sweden, where there are already established communities of refugees from Iraq and Syria. The politics are bad, too:

The Danish government’s current strategy will probably make it harder for Denmark to collaborate with other E.U. countries. Germany and Sweden have had harsh words for their neighbor: “Denmark is a rich country and is able to take care of the refugees,” the Swedish justice minister said, responding to demands from the Danish government that Sweden accept some of the refugees in Denmark.

“The strong anti-refugee stance of Denmark is not a surprise, given the new government that is in place since June,” said Astrid Ziebarth, a migration fellow at the German Marshall Fund, a political think tank. Ziebarth was referring to the center-right minority government that has governed the Scandinavian country for the last three months, backed by the populist anti-immigrant Danish Peoples Party, which won 21 percent of the votes.

Why Germany suspended its obligations under the Schengel treaty reestablishing immigration controls on the Germany/Austria border (9/14)

Hungary finally had some words of praise for Germany after weeks of rising tensions between the two countries: The Hungarian government applauded Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to reinstate border controls between Germany and Austria.

The Eastern Europeans in particular might regard the border controls as an indication that Germany is taking a harder line toward refugees. But that’s not case.

Here are five reasons that Germany really decided to temporarily suspend the Schengen treaty, which ensures free movement in 26 European countries, 22 of which belong to the European Union.

A couple of non-Noack analysis pieces are worth a read, too.

With Hungary closing its borders to new refugees, the Post reports this morning that the net effect is to shift attention from Hungary to other front-line countries such as Serbia and Greece. And refugees who have reached Serbia intending to move on to Hungary are now moving in the direction of EU member Croatia.

After being blocked by Hungary’s new border fence, the river of migrants and refugees on Wednesday began to change course and move west toward Croatia, in a desperate gambit to forge a new route to Western Europe.

Thousands spent the night in the wet grass here along frontier with Hungary, as Serb officials warned the European Union that their cash-strapped country could not host large numbers of destitute travelers.

Local reporters discovered that regional bus companies had begun offering refugees a trip from the Macedonian border in the south directly to Croatia, bypassing Hungary.

Reuters reported one of its cameraman saw at least 100 migrants walk through cornfields into European Union member Croatia. Most traveled by bus from Macedonia; others pulled up in taxis, the news agency said.

Reaction from Croatia has been swift but mainly positive, reports the Post in the dark of early morning here in the U.S.

“Barbed wire in Europe in the 21st century is not an answer, it’s a threat,” complained Croatia’s prime minister, Zoran Milanovic, in a direct jab at the blockades by neighboring Hungary.

He told lawmakers in Zagreb that Croatia would “accept and direct” the migrants to transit the country — comments that are likely to ripple through the social media networks used by the refugees and increase the march toward Croatia.

Want to know how to solve the refugee problems? Michael Birnbaum in the Post has some ideas (five of them, in fact), most of which have no chance of happening. (9/8)

She may have been callous towards immigrants in July, but she’s now “Europe’s conscience.” (9/11)

Less than two months later, the German leader is getting raves for her moral leadership regarding the refugee crisis. She is being called “Europe’s conscience” not only for her country’s willingness to take in hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, but for stepping up to push for a Europe-wide response to the crisis.

Merkel has denounced xenophobic protests over the refugees, saying, “there is no tolerance toward those who question the dignity of other people.” Migrants pose for her with selfies and express their appreciation in images shared on social media. Refugees are calling her “Mama Merkel” and naming their babies after her.

That’s enough for now. I’m critical of much of the Post’s domestic coverage, but this stuff his first rate. Read them all, please. There will be a quiz soon.

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