As illegal immigration becomes and increasingly hot-button issue in the States, the continent of Europe is caught in the thick of its own regional immigrant crisis.
Refugees have been fleeing from Syria and Iraq as their home countries (and their physical homes) lay in tatters due to the civil war initiated by ISIL terrorists—known alternatively as IS, ISIS, and Daesh (the derogatory term for the radical Islamic State used by peaceful Muslims, derived from an Arabic acronym). Millions of people are attempting to escape the war-torn region by crossing over land into Europe.
After trekking from Syria through Turkey and across the land bridge between the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the most common route for the refugees has been through the Hungarian capital of Budapest, to the Austrian capital of Vienna, and finally into Munich. Some have also attempted to go through Slovakia and the Czech Republic in order to cross into Germany.
Challenge for EU Policy
Unfortunately for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, many of the refugees attempting to find asylum in Western Europe have been sent back by certain European authorities. The refugee crisis has strained debates over whether the European Union can maintain its free movement policies, which allow Europeans to travel between member states freely with no need for a passport. The influx of non-European migrants places a heavy toll on the region’s security, as well as its ability to safely absorb so many people without devastating effects.
France and Germany have proposed quotas for each nation based on its capacity to handle the incoming refugees. The measure is supposed to help distribute the burden evenly across the EU countries based on their size, but some members (like Poland) have pointed out that refugees are merely passing through their country and have no intention of staying. This complicates the situation quite a bit, testing the already-tenuous solidarity and unity of the European Union.
In Syria specifically, the refugee crisis has actually been going on since 2011 due to the instability of the Assad regime. Some 4 million people have been displaced from the country in the time since.
Naturally, European leaders who are worried about the impact of the massive influx of distressed immigrants have openly wondered why the Arab Gulf States aren’t doing more to deal with the crisis. Many have pointed out that this would also facilitate the more expedient return of the refugees to their homelands whenever the conflict with ISIL is resolved.
There are actually several reasons why countries on the nearby Arabian Peninsula have been less involved in taking in displaced refugees. First of all, these countries have been absorbing refugees from the region for years already; somewhere around half a million Syrians are already domiciled in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, some countries have offered quite a bit of humanitarian aid in lieu of opening their borders. The small-but-wealthy United Arab Emirates (UAE) has provided over $500 million in aid because even a few thousand extra inhabitants could have significant consequences for its demographic balance.
Second, whatever the tensions between anti-Islamic groups in Europe and the incoming Syrians, it’s true that the rivalries and ethnic divisions among these Middle Eastern nations are more, not less, divisive than those between Europeans and cultures from Central Asia. Consider that several of the Gulf States have pumped millions of dollars into the military conflict in Syria over the years, making it unlikely they would embrace the fleeing peoples who they helped to displace.
Refugee Sanctuary in Munich
The main destination for the immigrants is Germany, which has announced that it will extend asylum to 800,000 refugees as they pour into the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the xenophobia against incoming Muslims, reaffirming the country’s commitment to doing what it can to address the humanitarian crisis.
Germany’s largest soccer team, FC (football club) Bayern Munich, is even doing its part to help the situation by setting up camps that will offer basic services as well as recreational and educational programs to refugee children. During the traditional pre-game football ritual where players enter the field holding the hand of a child, Bayern Munich will bring awareness to the crisis by including the child refugees in the customary ceremony at their next match on September 12th.