The Greek island of Kos is a holiday paradise. Travelers come to visit archaeological excavations and splash in the Aegean Sea. But these days, Kos has become a nightmare, an example of the huge migrant crisis facing the European Union.
Thousands of refugees have come to Kos on shabby boats, and the authorities are unable to cope with the rush. Melees have broken out, with police using batons against the refugees.
Same crisis, different location: Every day, thousands of migrants try to cross the border from Calais, France, to England by jumping on a truck that is crossing the Eurotunnel under the English Channel. More than 10 refugees have died while trying to go to England.
In Germany, local authorities are overwhelmed in an effort to establish new homes for refugees. Politicians fail to tell their citizens that refugees will live in the neighborhood. As a result, right-wing extremists air their hate against foreigners. In the first half of the year, there have been more than 200 assaults on refugee homes in Germany.
The inflow of refugees will not stop. According to European Union experts, wars and poverty will drive up to 1 million people to flee to Europe this year.
Europe, meanwhile, is failing to cope with its migrant crisis.
The 28 countries of the European Union have sharpened border protection in East Europe. Hungary and Greece have built walls to keep refugees out. The result: People come across the sea to Italy, to Greece.
More than 2,000 migrants have already died this year on their way to Europe. The real number may be much higher. To make it worse, the EU has downsized its rescue program for refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.
In the United States, some Republicans, like Donald Trump, vie with each other to boast of the walls they will build against immigrants. Europe has already built is walls, but that hasn’t stopped the refugees from coming.
Many arrive in Greece, a country facing a huge economic crisis. Italy feels it has been left to cope with the problem without help from the rest of Europe. Arriving in these countries, refugees try go to elsewhere, like Germany, England or Sweden to live the “European dream.”
But the EU is divided. There are no agreements within the union on how to rescue and take in refugees. In the last year, Germany, for example, has accommodated 170,000 refugees, while Poland, which has approximately half of the population of Germany, has only accommodated 5,000.
And it’s getting worse. On Wednesday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, said Germany could see as many as 800,000 migrants arriving in 2015, four times the number last year and 300,000 more than previously estimated. He said more than 360,000 had already arrived this year.
Countries like Great Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic refuse to agree to binding rules on the accommodation of migrants. The result: Five of 28 EU states take two-thirds of all individuals applying for asylum.
How can this crisis be solved? Europe needs to establish a unified refugee policy. This policy has to be humanitarian and compatible with all the countries. Refugees should be distributed fairly among the EU countries according to economic power, population, size.
Germany, for one, doesn’t have a migration law. Immigration is still something strange to many Germans. But Germany needs migrants because its population is shrinking, and well-educated employees are hard to find. Many of the people coming to the EU now are doctors and engineers.
European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel have to educate their citizens about the advantages of migration. They have to remove the concerns of the public and fight against right-wing extremists.
Immigration laws — Germany has none — would be a first step in normalizing the situation. The next step would be to integrate immigrants into the job market. In many European countries, refugees are not allowed to work. And it should be easier to apply for citizenship in European countries.
The United States is a good example for Europe. Every year 1 million immigrants come to the country. Immigration is part of the society. It is easier for immigrants to get U.S. citizenship and to become part of society.
Europe is far away from America, and not only geographically.
Volker ter Haseborg is the chief reporter of the German business magazine BILANZ. He is currently an Arthur F. Burns fellow at the Miami Herald.