When waves of refugees and immigrants first started crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 to escape from the wars in their countries, many member nations of the European Union welcomed them. Germany was the most welcoming of all, accepting over 1 million migrants in 2015. Of course, other countries helped out too. Austria had a similar open policy for migrants and Hungary provided bus transport to the thousands of migrants who were trying to get to the Austrian border.
By the end of January 2016, however, many of the EU’s officials’ stances had changed. Hungary built a fence along one of their borders to keep people out, and many other countries like Greece, Sweden and the U.K. have also closed down their borders. Even Germany has passed laws against migrants. What made the acceptance go away?
First of all, the sheer number of immigrants coming to Europe can be disorienting. The countries that were initially cautious about this situation seem to believe that too many immigrants will bring down their economy and take jobs from citizens. However, studies show that refugees are more likely to open up small businesses rather than join an existing one, which creates jobs for other people and boosts the economy. To keep immigrants from taking jobs from their current residents, the U.K. bars immigrants from working until their cases are processed, which could take years according to the Washington Post. Many other countries also have this policy and don’t have good systems for immigrant applications.
In the countries where these policies are implemented, people who haven’t been granted asylum live off of government welfare, costing the government much more money than if they had just allowed them to start working. So, if a government has less money because of immigrants, it was caused by their flawed policies.
Another reason that Europe is barring newcomers is that most of them are Muslim. Slovakia closed their borders entirely to Muslims, while even countries who haven’t done so worry that there could be terrorists among the immigrants acting as refugees. At first, Germany wasn’t deterred by this concept at all, keeping its borders open and processing cases more quickly than any of the other countries. This continued until instances of rape increased dramatically in Europe, with nearly all of them purportedly committed by Muslims. After this, Germany seemed more cautious and their chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that the residential status that Syrians, Iraqis and other immigrants were granted was temporary.
According to New York Magazine, Merkel fully expects these people to go back to their original countries once the war is over and ISIS has been defeated. She also passed laws that enabled Germany to deport migrants who commit an offense like rape. However, she still refused to close the borders of the country, a decision that brings a growing amount of resentment from the population.
Despite some of the consequences of letting newcomers in, Europe may actually need those people to keep the population up. In order to maintain the current population, each Western European woman should have on average 2.1 children. This rate has gone down to 1.36 in Germany, which may be one of the reasons they were originally happy to accept so many immigrants. Now, however, Merkel doesn’t want these people to be permanent residents. Birth rates have dropped in other countries as well, with Spain now having only 1.48 live births on average and Italy only having 1.4. Yet none of these countries recognize that this is a problem.
This is the kind of situation where there are no right answers. Closing borders and deporting offenders will keep the country’s citizens safer. On the other hand, only a small percentage of these people commit crime, and they are all fleeing from bad situations. Only accepting Christians would be a compromise, but an extremely bigoted one that assumes all Muslims are either rapists or terrorists.
With this in mind, I think that Germany has the best system so far. The country’s leaders recognize the benefits that immigrants can bring and give them residency quickly, but are tough on the individuals that commit crimes.
The rest of the EU should also implement similar systems. After all, these people are escaping from war zones. What right do those who live comfortably have to tell them to go back?