What was Merkel’s plan here, exactly? She threw open Germany’s borders, announced that the country would take as many as 800,000 people this year, and now German authorities seem surprised that the surge in border crossings is too much for them to handle. A first-world welfare state with an appetite for cheap labor turns out to be a huge, barely controllable draw for impoverished people from violent third-world nations. Who knew?
Imagine being one of Germany’s neighbors through all of this. The crush of immigrants that Greece and Hungary, among others, are coping with is due almost entirely to their proximity to Germany. If you’re a Middle Easterner looking for work, a failing state like Greece is nothing more than a transit route to Berlin. Now, suddenly, after encouraging the entire Arab world to pick up and leave for Europe, “Mama Merkel” is telling them to slow their roll, with Germany’s satellite states suddenly forced to figure out what to do with the tens of thousands of new arrivals who are waiting for the German border to re-open. They have no choice but to impose new “temporary” border checks too, a cascade effect that’s singlehandedly threatening the Schengen Agreement’s guarantee of free movement across states that’s governed the EU for decades.
Behold the beginning of the end for the European Union:
Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands introduced border controls on Monday, as Germany’s decision over the weekend to set up checks began to ripple across a bloc struggling to deal with the influx of migrants coming to the Continent.
In Hungary, the authorities said that a near-record 5,353 migrants had crossed into the country from Serbia before noon on Monday — even as Budapest continued to try to seal off that border, which is being reinforced with the construction of a 109-mile fence made with razor wire…
[Germany] Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told members of his center-left Social Democratic Party, which governs with Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, that Germany could face the arrival of even more migrants this year than the government had projected. “There are many indications that in this year we will not see 800,000 refugees, as predicted, but a million,” he said in a letter to his party.
European countries are playing a game of hot potato right now, with Serbia “pushing through” its migrants into Hungary, which had been hoping to push them through in turn into Austria, which could then send them along to Germany. Now, with the border controls in place, everything’s slowed down and Hungary needs to figure out how to process the expected arrival of 30,000 refugees and/or migrants today. In order to deter more from coming, they’re going to make it a criminal offense to enter the country without authorization starting tomorrow morning, but why that would stop anyone I don’t know. Presumably anyone who’s arrested will simply be given amnesty and shuffled along to Germany in due time, as housing a giant new population in prisons would presumably be just as expensive for Hungarians as housing them in temporary refugee camps. What Merkel’s really forcing these smaller, poorer southern and eastern European states to do by closing Germany’s borders is — irony of ironies — to bail out Germany from its myopic come-one-come-all policy, at least temporarily. Usually when we’re talking about the EU and bailouts, it’s Germany’s choice. What choice does Hungary have in this migration fiasco?
Middle Easterners who’ve made it to Europe but are now stuck languishing in a satellite state while Merkel figures this out are, as you might expect, confused:
“She said she will bring big boats from Turkey to rescue Syrians!” said Maria, a Syrian who fled the bombs of Damascus six weeks ago [and is now stranded at the rail station in Vienna, Austria]. “And now why has she closed the border?” asked Maria’s daughter…
Pacing around the concourse with her two children, Galbari al-Hussein saw the constant changes in border policy as a cruel game played at the expense of vulnerable refugees. “We’ve travelled so far, thousands of kilometres, and now they’re closing the borders,” said Hussein, who reached Vienna barely a week after escaping Islamic State territory, hidden in an unfamiliar niqab. “Is it open, is it closed? It’s very unfair.”…
There was one thing on which everyone could agree. Whatever Germany does or doesn’t do with its border, refugees will still keep fleeing to Europe. “Everybody is coming,” said Iyad, a Syrian student. “They are coming, coming, coming. My brother will leave Syria in two days.” Iyad’s friend Amal nodded in agreement. “The only people who will stay are those who don’t have any money,” said Amal. “People are selling their cars and homes to come here.”
What happens when Germany reaches its annual quota of 800,000 refugees and there are still hundreds of thousands more refugees or migrants demanding to be let in? The EU is meeting today to try to figure out a quota system for each European state, but at least one, Denmark, has vowed not to accept any more. If Germany bullies its satellites into accepting huge numbers of mostly Muslim immigrants in order to relieve pressure on its own borders, the animosity towards Berlin among other EU states will dwarf the sort of anti-German sentiment you’ve seen in Greece over the past few years. If instead Merkel has a total change of heart, closing Germany’s borders and triggering another cascade effect across the EU, the masses of Middle Easterners who’ve given up everything to try to make it to Europe will curse Germany for leaving them stranded en route. And if Merkel bites the bullet and decides that Germany, as the instigator of the crisis, will accept whatever excess of immigrants there are beyond the 800,000 they’re expecting, it’ll be long-term cultural suicide for Germany and a short-term bonanza for far-right parties there. There are no good outcomes to this. And to think, Merkel was hoping it would be some sort of international PR coup for her nation.