Introduction: An Insufferable Situation
Millions of desperate people fleeing civil wars and anarchy in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern as well as African countries have risked their lives for a chance at a better life in Europe, particularly Germany and other prosperous European nations.
No consensus or other solutions meeting the hopes and needs of refugees of host nations have been discovered. The influx of refugees remains a human catastrophe that worsens with time. Stopgap measures have satisfied some factions in affected nations for a while (particularly Germany, Sweden, Turkey, Greece and Macedonia), only to prove impossibly burdensome. This reality was seen in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initial welcoming policy, and more recently when financial incentives led Turkey to accept some migrants trapped in Greece. Though Greece is unable to meet its own obligations to its citizens and to lenders, it was and remains overwhelmed by tens of thousands of refugees it cannot house, feed or otherwise manage properly. Official estimates put the number of migrants on Greece’s border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at 10,000; overall Greece has more than 44,000 trapped migrants as new arrivals land daily on the country’s eastern islands.
An effective response by EU countries will have to safeguard and promote basic criteria vital to the interest of host nations. This will be difficult, given that such solutions must protect economies, prevent the radicalizing of internal politics and avoid further strains in post-war institutions. The latter have sustained the peace for over half a century, but are under severe strains by the arrival of massive numbers of undocumented, unmanageable arrivals. A continuation of the unregulated chaos brought on by the influx of desperate, ill-prepared and often culturally incompatible migrants has put the grand EU experiment in a border-less Europe in jeopardy.
A Realistic Perspective On the Prospect of Easing Somewhat the Migration Crisis
Only the resolution of current nation-state conflicts will ultimately resolve the worldwide problem of desperate people seeking better lives elsewhere. Everything else, included the proposal outline below that is focused on education and basic assistance, will be futile stopgap measures for migrants trapped at the borders of countries that cannot allow immediate entry and still protect their quality of life. There is no single solution to the immigration crisis that confronts European countries. Significant resources from EU member states are required to enable states to police their borders, fingerprint and process claimants and swiftly return those without a legitimate claim.
It would be wonderful if it were possible to grant immediate admission and sufficient food, clothing, shelter, health services, education and job opportunities—and more, for one and all, but that is impossible. No nation could endure in recognizable or acceptable form if it attempted to do so.
What can the European states do with the situation brought on by masses of desperate asylum seekers? What, that is, can they do that will enable a sustainable level of immigration that protects quality of life, a sound economy and social cohesion?
I believe they can and should set up and enforce five basic criteria that, if met, will quality applicants for temporary asylum, leading in time to citizenship for those who qualify for entry. This seems essential given the reality that the overwhelming majority of uninvited migrants now demanding entry are young and from poor, autocratic and theistic neighboring states who are not likely to assimilate into the host countries they seek to enter and live. These refugees are fundamentally different, at present, from the populations in old, democratic and prosperous Europeans.
The suggested criteria are as follows:
- Create empowered councils of all European states that will study and put forward European-wide recommendations for a master plan for dealing with the immigration crisis throughout the EU.
- Conduct the studies needed to establish the approximate number of immigrants that can be integrated, after all other criteria for admission have been satisfied.
- Establish minimal language requirements for all adult immigrant applicants, and learning centers for immigrant applicants in protected, secure areas. I call the learning center “New Towns”; the nature of these enclaves is sketched below.
- Develop a statement of national core values for distribution to all immigrants seeking entry into specific nations, and advise applicants that only those who wish to embrace the defined values of that desired nation will be given consideration for provisional admission. Each country would establish its own set of value codes, but illustrative elements can be identified. These suggested values would promote harmony and integration and discourage applicants who want to live in enclaves and practice traditions at odds with the native culture. Examples of the latter would be cultural traditions that discriminate against women or others, that oppose liberty for all to practice the religion of their choice or to choose no religion, if that is their choice, beliefs that restrict personal freedoms of expression and/or seek to impose customs on the native populations or customs that are unwelcome (e.g., amplified calls to prayer throughout the day that affect the tranquility and peace of mind of all in areas impacted by these unwanted sounds of religious fervor.)
- Create equitable, enforceable procedures for the return of refugees who, for economic and other reasons, do not warrant admission to EU countries, a disruptive segment of migrant that has exacerbated the crisis.
Europe is not capable of serving as a destination for everyone seeking a better life. A significant amount of resources and assets from EU member states must be appropriated and targeted in order to police the EU’s external borders, process claimants for entry and promptly return those without legitimate claims or who otherwise are judged unprepared or unsuited for life in EU countries.
In addition to these criteria, a suggestion is made for wellness-based “New Town” educational centers.
New Towns for Democratic and Other Educational Advances
“New Town” developments in E.U. countries would provide opportunities for language study and a wide range of programs. Migrants could learn about the cultures, values and customs of nations wherein they might like to live, in time, on provisional terms, as asylum seekers. The “New Towns” would be constructed within secured areas. Migrants who choose to live and study in “New Towns” would be guaranteed the right of return to their home states, at any time if they so desired.
A wellness perspective on this matter or any matter can be sketched by drawing upon a foundation of humanistic, democratic values. These include, for starters, respect for the right of all countries to control their borders, to define and safeguard public interest and to promote the well being, health and safety of its people.
Within these parameters, ample room remains for the expression of compassion, charity, kindness and assistance to those in need. “New Towns” would be educational centers that help prepare new arrivals for life in unfamiliar lands with traditions and expectations different from the norms in their mother countries. Germany and other states faced with migrants seeking asylum will benefit from the considerable jobs that will be available for the construction, staffing and maintenance of the “New Towns.”
Eliminating human trafficking and other policies must be enacted that will discourage and prevent further migration. Care must be taken that “New Town” centers do not come to represent a further attraction that lures asylum seekers from nations in turmoil. Neither Europe nor any other area of the world can prosper as a destination of choice for everyone seeking a better life.
In an editorial last year in Free Inquiry Magazine, Tom Flynn addressed the “Trouble with Immigration,” touching on a few points that seem to inform the issues that face the EU in its struggles to manage an uninvited continuous wave of desperate, destitute and disadvantaged migrants. Flynn suggested that the underlying problem has less to do with ethnicity or culture and more with the reality that states simply cannot sustain vastly higher numbers of immigrants. I think he was partly right—I believe that his one point is accurate but that the overwhelming problems associated with higher numbers is made ruinous by differences of ethnicity and culture.
Europeans have never erected a statue with the words of Emma Lazarus inviting one and all nations to “Give me your tired, your poor.” Nice sentiments, but Ms. Lazarus was a poet, not a high government official charged with protecting the viability of nation states. Germany and the rest of Europe cannot take in the teeming masses, most of whom are not yearning to go free, but to survive and continue life as they knew it in Syria and other unfree states. In Flynn’s words, untrammeled migration harms both the “sending” and the “receiving” countries.
Europeans should consider a wellness perspective that advances the long-term interests of host nations and those of qualified, limited numbers of new citizen applicants. The five recommendations listed above, along with the suggested “New Town” educational centers, might be a fresh start for dealing effectively with the most serious challenge to the well being of Europeans since the end of WW II.
All good wishes. Be well.