Refugee crisis: a game of politics?

Every year, thousands of people leave their countries because of conflicts or natural disasters. The unprecedented refugee and migrant arrivals in many European countries has drifted people who seek a safer future, including better job opportunities. Whether they are called refugees or migrants, both categories are often subject to ill-treatment, prejudice and discrimination. Is it related to governments’ inability to provide them adequate reception services or does it reveal a game of politics?

France and Germany are the main European countries that have absorbed the largest number of those people and their political systems have been shaken by the recent geopolitical events. Thus, it has been observed an overlap in their migration policy in relation to the past. For instance, although France has historically been more hostile by providing political and social rights to refugees and migrants, since 2015 the country seems more hesitant by receiving a small percentage of asylum seekers in relation to Germany[1]. This hesitance is evident among political circles of the country where the center-left socialist members of the government have not approved any political reforms regarding the migration issue[2]. On the other hand, although Germany seems more willing to receive and accept migrants, the latter’s integration within society is still facing certain obstacles. Concerns about workers’ rights expressed by the left-wing partisans and the alteration of the German identity expressed by the left-wing supporters not only impede migrants’ opportunities for a better future but also trigger the country’s political situation. The absence of consensus among political parties on the refugee and migrant issue has weakened the understanding of political and social rights and led to the destabilisation of those countries’ systems[3]. However, it should be emphasised that despite potential political disagreements, the countries of northern Europe have shown a promptness to receive refugees and migrants either due to good will or as a game of politics and prestige of being democratic and liberal states.

On the opposite side, the governments of central and eastern Europe have repeatedly opposed the influx of those people and their reception within their territory, pursuing an even more conservative policy. The issue of cultural, racial and religious identity is more than evident in those countries’ policies. Indeed, countries such as Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Austria are rejecting any calls to impose resettlement quotas, thus putting the burden to the countries of southern and northern Europe[4]. In fact, third-country nationals are perceived as a threat against society, posing danger to those countries’ integrity. Building fences and using violence against illegal migrants constitute a kind of temporary but exemplary punishment for those who will attempt to reach those countries’ territory. Despite the European Union’s fundamental principles about democracy and cultural tolerance, solidarity, cooperation and human rights’ promotion, current events have demonstrated that national interests outweigh these values. In other words, although human rights – and specifically refugees and migrants’ rights – are supposed to be implemented, respected and protected by every sovereign state, they are being sacrificed in the altar of racial, political and economic interests.

Nevertheless, this is not the first time that Europe has to deal with refugees and migrants. It has historically been considered as the Promised Land and has often been called to manage and absorb smaller migrant inflows. Wealthy, prosperous and democratic European states are deemed to provide better educational, professional or even survival opportunities for thousands of migrants. However, the unexpectedly large numbers of arrivals have led to the political destabilisation of not only countries such as France and Germany but also less prosperous countries of eastern and southern Europe. These events found the Union politically and structurally unprepared without having a comprehensive strategic plan. And this is not attributed to its ideological principles and values per se but to the mere fact that national economic, political and social interests constitute priorities for the governments, thus putting the migration issue into the game of politics. It has, therefore, been observed a progressive weakness of the hitherto traditional model concerning the refugee and migrant flows’ management and there is an imperative need for political renewal. In view of the absence of a consensus among political parties, and consequently among European countries, such renewal will not emerge from the far right-wing but through the adoption and implementation of viable alternatives taking those vulnerable groups’ rights into serious consideration.

The effective management of the migration crisis in accordance with international human rights law requires a more welcoming and diversified Europe. It should be realised that migration has a positive power and it can be used as a component for increasing productivity and prosperity, basically at the labour sector. However, the utilisation of the migration power should be accompanied with the identification and fostering of legislative amendments respecting those people’s fundamental rights. Indeed, provisions regarding migrants’ social integration and the securing of their rights should be part of the governments’ priorities. This can only be achieved if political parties of every member state of the European Union realise that tending towards conservatism, introversion and extreme nationalistic policies will not function as a solution for the migrant arrivals’ deterrence.  All in all, although Europe is supposed to be a safer future for migrants, in fact their treatment and future highly depend on the games of politics and national interests.

[1] Thompson, M. (2017) ‘The Immigration Game: How the refugee crisis has affected French and German politics’. Brown Political Review. Accessed 17 May 2017 <http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2017/05/immigration-game-refugee-crisis-affected-french-german-politics/>.
[2] Ibid, Accessed 17 May 2017 <http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2017/05/immigration-game-refugee-crisis-affected-french-german-politics/>.
[3] Ibid, Accessed 17 May 2017 <http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2017/05/immigration-game-refugee-crisis-affected-french-german-politics/>.
[4] Lopatka, J., R.,Muller et al. (2016) ‘Central European countries push for back-up EU border plans over migrants’. Reuters. Accessed 20 May 2017 < http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-visegrad-idUSKCN0V41AM>.
(Photo: Laurin Schmid/AP Photo)