African migrant Crisis

Friday, October 26, 2018

“Concerning the situation internally in the EU, secondary movements of asylum seekers between member states risk jeopardising the integrity of the Common European Asylum System and the Schengen acquis. Member states should take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures to counter such movements and to closely co-operate amongst each other to that end.”

This item from last week’s European Council conclusions encapsulates many of the contradictory issues in Europe’s rapidly developing migration crisis. Since then its second sentence encouraging members to “take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures to counter such movements” – an effective renationalising of common rules – was taken to heart by Germany, Austria and Italy. This confirmed the fear expressed in the first sentence that the free movement initiated at Schengen in 1985 alongside the European Union’s single market, could be jeopardised.

As many commentators point out, the numbers of refugees coming to Europe from the Middle East and Africa has dramatically reduced since 2015, highlighting the delayed reaction to this issue in national and European politics.

A collapse of trust by fearful citizens in the capacity and willingness of political leaders to restore orderly procedures and policies on migration underlies the success of anti-immigration parties in Italy, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Hungary.

A further paradox is highlighted in a research paper from the Central European University in Budapest by Vera Messing and Bence Ságvári. Using survey data from the European Social Survey of 20 countries in 2014-15, they show that trust is the most significant factor explaining attitudes towards migrants.

Trust in fellow citizens and in institutions such as parliaments, political parties, the judiciary and police are central to the feeling of safety that allows acceptance of and solidarity with migrants. Where weak citizens are prone to anti-migrant hatred.

A further paradox is highlighted in a research paper from the Central European University in Budapest by Vera Messing and Bence Ságvári. Using survey data from the European Social Survey of 20 countries in 2014-15, they show that trust is the most significant factor explaining attitudes towards migrants. 

A Guest Editorial