The EU zombie staggers on

Foreign Affairs & Security
Saturday, February 27, 2016
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP

 John Redwood on the EU’s failure to cope with the influx of Syrian refugees

The EU’s border and migration administration reveals a dithering, divided policy.

In recent weeks we have seen Hungary try to keep migrants out of the EU altogether, but have to accept thousands without legal documents. We have seen Hungary tell migrants under EU rules they must stay in Hungary and claim asylum there or leave the EU, only to see Austria and Germany welcome them without Hungary doing its stated job.

We have seen Hungary refuse to allow migrants to use trains and buses to cross their country, and then to offer free buses to some migrants who decided on a dangerous walk on a motorway. We still do not know if Germany really means she is only accepting Syrian refugees, or whether she will accept anyone from anywhere that has made the difficult journey to her border, refugee or economic migrant. The BBC said there were people from many countries crossing Hungary, and many were likely to be economic migrants. Will Germany send back those who are not fleeing violence against themselves in Syria?

We have seen Germany change the rules over how to assess and receive migrants unilaterally, and say there must be a quota system to take more. Germany has not explained how you make migrants go to countries within the EU that they do not favour, or how you stop them going to countries already above quota once the migrants have gained legal documents allowing them to live and work in the EU.

This muddled policy can also be dangerous. I am sure they do not intend it to be so, but holding out the hope of an EU welcome and citizenship to any who use people smugglers to make the hazardous journey from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere and who eventually arrive tired and troubled at an EU border is in danger of putting more at risk. It could simply fuel the people smugglers’ cruel bonanza. As we have seen, even when they arrive in the EU there are still travel dangers if the migrants walk with children on railway lines and motorways rather than have permission and tickets to travel safely.

I think the UK is right to say the best way to help Syrian refugees is to provide support and assistance close to the homeland they have left on a far bigger scale than the EU is thinking of doing for individual refugees coming to the EU by hazardous means. I also think the rich Arab states adjacent to Syria could offer more help and support. In the UK when our children in London and other at risk locations were threatened nightly in the Second World War bombing raids they were taken out of danger as evacuees to safer parts of the country. Shouldn’t the Middle East’s safer countries and areas be offering something similar to children at risk in the most troubled fighting zones, whilst the regional governments and politicians work out how to find a longer term solution to the wars?

There are so many tragic deaths of children in these conflicts, and many of them passed unnoticed as children are bombed or shelled in their beds at home in war zones or die away from western cameras on their long journeys seeking a better life.

Rt Hon John Redwood is Member of Parliament for Wokingham.

This article first appeared on 07/09/2015. Published online 27/02/2016