It is hard to argue that the issue of how to deal with the ongoing wave of migration from the east into Europe isn’t the biggest problem facing the European Union. It is thus a source of cautious optimism that the controversial measures the EU more or less agreed upon to deal with the problem seem to be beginning to work.
Arrivals in Greece, the first EU stop of the migrants, have seen a steady drop since January. This is a particularly interesting development since it is counterintuitive. The fear was that with the milder weather and calmer seas of spring would come an increase rather than a decrease in the flow of migrants.
The migrants come from war-torn, economically underdeveloped countries to the east and south of Europe. These include Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, all targets of continuing American military action. Their normal route is to pass by sea from Turkey or Libya into Greece or Italy. Greece is probably the EU country least able to absorb them in economic terms.
It is also difficult to sort out the difference between refugees, truly in danger at home, and economic migrants, looking for a better life in richer Europe. The EU worked out a complicated procedure by which true refugees are accepted in EU states in return for economic migrants who are repatriated to Turkey, marked to return to their countries of origin by the Turks.
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It appears that the actual agreed-upon procedure is working. The returnees, presumably, are carrying the message back to those considering the risky sea journey that it isn’t worth the money or the danger to their lives. Those sent back will of course be disappointed and frustrated and may try again.
The other, and deserving, losers in the new procedure, if it works, are the traffickers. They have been making big money transporting migrant families across the Aegean and Mediterranean seas in inadequate boats with horrendous loss of life.
It may seem hard to deny a better life to unsuccessful migrants, but the justice of a measured flow into Europe cannot be denied. The end of the wars in their home countries that prompt and force them to leave is the only real solution to the migrant problem and deserves intense, continuing work.
The above editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.