By Olly Davies
The German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, has warned that Europe is on the verge of facing a greater refugee crisis than the one seen four years ago.
In a visit to Greece on October 6, Seehofer warned that the EU was still unprepared for another intake of refugees and migrants on the scale witnessed in 2015, a year during which more than one million refugees and migrants entered Europe illegally via land and sea.
Since the last crisis, Seehofer feels not enough has been done to secure Europe’s external borders. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Seehofer said, “We have to help our European partners even more on patrolling the EU’s external borders. We have left them alone for too long.
“If we don’t we will once again see a refugee wave like in 2015, maybe even greater than four years ago.”
Seehofer is trying to garner support for a quota system for asylum seekers. The plan has committed Germany to accepting a quarter of those who arrive in member states from the sea route between North Africa and Italy. However, according to The Telegraph, he has not committed to taking any of those who enter the EU from Greece or Spain.
All of this information came to light during the Interior Minister’s official visit to Turkey and Greece which was prompted by the significant increase in migrant crossings in the Aegean Sea over the last 12 months.
Turkey plays an extremely important role in the crisis in that region of Europe because, in 2016, an agreement was made which resulted in the EU giving Ankara €6 billion in return for keeping Syrian migrants in Turkey. This containment policy proved pivotal in stemming the flow of migrants into the EU, however, the arrangement is now under scrutiny because of accusations that Ankara is no longer turning away Syrian refugees.
A fire last week at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek Island of Lesbos arguably shows the issues of migration to the region. The camp has a capacity of 3,000 people but currently holds 4 times as many and this is seen by some as a direct result of Turkey reneging on the 2016 arrangement. Whatever the cause, it is clear the Greek camps are overflowing.
Marco Sandrome, a field officer with Médecis Sans Frontières, said Moria has become “the place of hell.” He also suggested, “No one can call this fire…an accident”, referencing the recent fire which tore through the refugee camp and triggered subsequent protests, due to the overcrowding in the camps.
The impact to the UK is unclear due to the uncertainty of Brexit. If we were to remain in the European Union, we could be obligated to take our share of the refugees entering Europe. However, the EU does not currently have a binding quota system which Berlin has been pushing for since the initial wave of migration in 2015, something which has received opposition in eastern Europe.
Given the current volatility of the political scene in both the UK and abroad, changes surrounding immigration and border control are likely to become a key component of any future EU relationship.