As of November, some 800,000 refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa had crossed the Mediterranean to reach a safe haven in Europe. The European Union estimates as many as three million might arrive by the end of 2016. For the European nations, the migrant crisis is posing an unprecedented challenge – from both humanitarian and security standpoints.
The flood of migrants into Europe is making it obvious that dialogue and agreement are necessary, to better protect the EU’s external borders and substantially alleviate the pressure on affected countries.
But as Edward Joseph of the Institute for Current World Affairs points out, those are difficult issues to manage, and are also politically sensitive.
“We have to have a balanced, wide perspective on this very pressing urgent problem,” he said.
Luca Dall’Oglio, of the International Organization for Migration, says it is important to help the migrants move on from the gateway countries of the Balkans to elsewhere in Western Europe.
“What can be done to help all those refugees that are in the countries of first asylum, where they have no opportunities for education, no opportunities for livelihood, and no opportunities for decent living,“ he said.
The refugee crisis is stoking tensions among the countries on the migrant corridor. Slovenia has started to build a razor wire fence along its border with Croatia.
Croatia’s ambassador to Washington says the EU needs to help alleviate those tensions.
“There is high awareness in Brussels and among the European countries of the fragility of the economies of the Western Balkans,” he said. “I am absolutely sure that Brussels will not allow the refugee crisis to turn into a serious economic crisis in the Balkans.”
Meanwhile, there is good news from Geneva. Government donors have promised an initial $690 million for UN refugee relief operations in 2016 – the highest amount ever.
But for Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, managing the massive tide of humanity still presents a major political and security challenge.
(Photo: Zalmaï for Human Rights Watch)