Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, has provided a breakdown of the national origin of first-time asylum applications, from April to June of this year, only 21 per cent were from Syria, the Sunday Telegraph reported on Sunday.
This situation will probably have changed markedly since June, following Germany’s decision to offer asylum to up to 800,000 people. Nevertheless, the diversity of asylum applications shows the migrant crisis is driven by more than just Syria’s collapse. The UN says that it involves a mix of refugees and economic migrants.
Describing someone as an economic migrant is not a moral judgment. The desire to seek a better life for one’s family is natural and honourable. But European countries have very different rules for dealing with those fleeing peril and those looking for work. Germany, for example, may well have stated that it is open to Syrian refugees – but it has also stepped up deportations of migrants from Balkan nations to make room. Some 37,000 Albanians made an asylum application in Germany in the first eight months of 2015.
All of this suggests that it was sensible of David Cameron to say that Britain will take Syrian refugees direct from refugee camps. This hopefully means that the UK will only give sanctuary to those in evident danger, while reducing risky journeys to Europe and undermining the people traffickers.
Rob Wainwright, a former M15 chief who now directs Europe’s main policing body, said that criminals formerly involved in drug-dealing and other rackets are “turning to this trade likes bees to a honeypot”.
It is plain that the EU has failed to regulate the free movement of people well, of which the most stark example was Germany’s dramatic U-turn – offering to take hundreds of thousands of refugees one minute and closing its borders the next.
While an emotional reaction to this crisis is understandable, the solution lies in recognising its complexity and acknowledging that not everyone involved is fleeing war. Those who are would be best served by strengthening the provision of refugee care in the Middle East and by bringing an end to the conflict within Syria itself. The ultimate goal should be to help rebuild a shattered nation.