The EU migrant crisis

Last year, Frontex (the EU agency for the cooperation of national border guards) saw an exponential increase of illegal border crossings.

"WEST AFRICANWEST AFRICANWESTERN MEDITERRANEANWESTERN MEDITERRANEANCENTRAL MEDITERRANEANCENTRAL MEDITERRANEANEASTERN MEDITERRANEANEASTERN MEDITERRANEANWESTERN BALKANWESTERN BALKANEASTERN BORDERSEASTERN BORDERS01010010001000010000010000002009201020112012201320142015Migration to the Schengen areaaccording to FrontexSource: FrontexIllegal border crossings by year and routeSchengen area

An increase in Frontex spottings of illegal migrants does not necessarily imply there are more. Maybe Frontex got better at doing its job. But by all accounts there was a net increase in migration to Europe in 2015.

How exceptional is the situation?

"1990199119921993199419951996199719981999200020012002200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014Yougoslavia (6439633)Iraq (2385020)Turkey (2116972)Somalia (1496617)Afghanistan (1452959)Iran (1219141)Russia (996224)Sri Lanka (871191)Vietnam (635882)Syria (437319)Yougoslav civil warWar on terrorSyrian civil warAsylum seekers since 1990to EU and/or Schengen countriesTop 10 countriesSource: UNHCR

Europe has seen waves of asylum seekers before. The total number declined between the beginning of the 90's and 2013. It has increased again since. The UNHCR data does not cover 2015 but the trend is towards more asylum applications.

The crisis has more to do with the European Union, and its patchwork of border treaties, than the actual number of migrants.

"EU border treatiesSource: WikipediaEU countries that have signed both Schengen and DublinNon-EU countries that have signed both Schengen and Dublin- Iceland- Norway- Switzerland- LichtensteinEU countries part of the Dublin regulation but not Schengen- Ireland- United Kingdom- Croatia- Romania- Bulgaria- CyprusEU countries within the Schengen area but not part of the Dublin regulation- Denmark

The Schengen agreement creates a borderless area between signatory countries.

The Dublin Regulation determines which country is responsible for arriving asylum seekers.

The Dublin regulationUnder the Dublin Regulation, an asylum seeker has to apply forasylum and be registered in the first EU country she enters.If she then crosses the border to another country,she can be returned to the former.

Due to the big arrivals of migrants to Hungary, the country decided on the 23rd of June 2015 that it would stop accepting returned asylum seekers.

Migrants do not necessarily wish to be registered in the first country, while said country does not always wish to keep them. Countries not keen on registering migrants let them pass to the next, leaving that country with the responsibility to register them. The whole logic behind the Dublin Regulation collapses.

This in turn led some Schengen countries to reintroduce border controls, possibly compromising that treaty too.

"GermanySince 13.09.2015Borders to: AustriaAustriaSince 16.09.2015Borders to: Italy, Hungary, Slovenia and SlovakiaSlovenia17.09.2015 - 16.10.2015Borders to: HungaryHungary17.09.2015 - 26.09.2015Borders to: SloveniaSwedenSince 12.11.2015Borders to: Denmark and GermanyNorwaySince 26.11.2015Borders to: Sweden, Denmark and GermanyDenmarkSince 04.01.2016Borders to: GermanyBelgiumSince 23.02.2016Borders to: FranceReintroduced border controlswithin the Schengen area beacuse of the migrant crisisSource: European commissionSchengen countries that reintroduced border controlsOther countries of the Schengen areaEU members not in the Schengen areaFrance introduced controls at its borders in November 2015because of the terrorist threat, not the migrant crisis

European border agreements put a lot of responsibility on countries along the outer borders. In September 2015, as the situation in Greece, Italy and Hungary was becoming uncontrollable, the European Commission proposed "provisional measures" to reallocate a bit more than 100'000 asylum seekers to other countries.

The calculation to decide the quota for each country is based on four indicators.

"AustriaBelgiumBulgariaCroatiaCyprusCzech RepublicEstoniaFinlandFranceGermanyLatviaLithuaniaLuxembourgMaltaNetherlandsPolandPortugalRomaniaSlovakiaSloveniaSpainSwedenPopulationTotal GDPAsylum applications per 1M inhabitants (2010-2014)Unemployment rateCriteria for the calculation of the quotaaccording to European commission proposal "COM(2015)451"Sources: European commission, Eurostat, Wikipedia and World bank

The proposal was accepted by the European Parliament.

Could quotas become a permanent solution? Migrants aspirations and different countries' approaches to the question may compromise such calculations.

"AustriaBelgiumFinlandFranceGermanyNetherlandsPolandRomaniaSpainSwedenOther ** Other countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, SloveniaCountries affected by the quotaSource: EurostatPart of the 140'000 asylum seekers distributed accordingto the European commission proposal "COM(2015)451"Part of the 1'330'345 asylum seekers arriving to thesame countries during the last six months of 2015

Imposing quotas of asylum seekers on potentially unwilling European citizens is akin to political suicide. The only solution all member countries could agree on is to outsource the problem to the near neighborhood, Turkey for instance.

Looking a bit further than the direct neighbors, where do last years asylum seekers come from?

"SYRIAAFGHANISTANIRAQALBANIAPAKISTANERITREAIRANNIGERIARUSSIABANGLADESH(302995)(152820)(105670)(41675)(33520)(28850)(22310)(20570)(13440)(13195)SOUTH ASIABALKANSSUBSAHARAN AFRICAMIDDLE EASTNORTH AFRICAFORMER SOVIET UNIONAMERICAEAST ASIAUNKNOWN ORIGINSOUTH ASIABALKANSSUBSAHARAN AFRICAMIDDLE EASTNORTH AFRICAFORMER SOVIET UNIONAMERICAEAST ASIAUNKNOWN ORIGINOrigin of asylum applicantsin the last 6 months of 2015, by regionTop 10 countriesSource: Eurostat

The biggest origin of asylum applicants is the civil war in Syria. Where do Syrian refugees go?

"TurkeyLebanonJordanIraqEgyptEuropeOtherDestination countries for syrian refugeesbetween 2010 and 2014Countries supporting factions in the syrian civil war ** No data for IranUSARussiaSaudi ArabiaQatar= 1%Source: UNHCR

Most fleeing Syrians have found shelter in neighboring countries, only a small part has made it to Europe.

Financiers of rebel groups, as well as supporters of the current government, have not been as interested in helping fleeing Syrians as they are in "regime change" or assisting the current regime.

The so called "migrant crisis" is above all an issue of the incoherence of the European Union. Without a common geopolitical vision and strategy, the EU has no chance of solving the problem at its root. Let alone force countries involved in Syria to take care of the problems they create.