THE REFUGEE CRISIS IN EUROPE
Regaining Control in an Unsettled Europe
NOTE: I thought this was a rational piece about immigration in light of the growing right wing anti-immigrant movement both here in the U.S. and across Europe.
The Washington Post
November 15, 2015
AMSTERDAM — Objectively speaking, the unprecedented, bloody terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night were not related to the European refugee crisis that has rumbled on for many months. Certainly the attacks could not have been caused by France’s acceptance of refugees because France, unlike Germany and Sweden, has not been accepting large numbers of refugees. Nor is it credible to believe that recently arrived refugees from the Syrian war were primarily responsible for organizing a complex series of attacks. People who climbed mountains or crossed the Mediterranean on rafts did not arrive in France and transform themselves immediately into armed terrorist killers.
The actual killers knew Paris very well. At least one has already been identified as a French national, known to the police. Others drove a Belgian rental car. I don’t care how all of the other killers entered the country: This operation was not planned by refugees. They picked targets — bars, a theater, the national stadium — in integrated neighborhoods, places that were frequented by young Parisians of all backgrounds.
The human brain is not rational, however, and within minutes of the news breaking — before the identity of any of the murderers was known — many, many people began making the link between the two issues. Not all of them were Europeans: Ben Carson helpfully declared that the United States, in the wake of Paris, must now close its borders to Middle Eastern refugees. But of course European writers, tweeters, citizens and politicians also made the same statement in large numbers.
The logistical crisis pales beside the political crisis. For years — decades, really — Germany had positioned itself as the keeper of Europe’s rules. Whether dealing with the Greek crisis or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Germany has always stuck solemnly to whatever treaties it signed or promises it made. When Germany suddenly shifted the policy without consultation at the European level, and forced everyone else to accommodate, widespread disaffection began to spread.
There is no avoiding it: These terrorist attacks will consolidate this sense of insecurity, the feeling that no one at the national or international level is in charge of policy toward terrorism or refugees, even in those European countries that have no terrorism or refugees at all. And unless the sense of control returns, the political consequences could be severe. Across the continent, a surge in support for far-right, anti-European or anti-immigrant political groups has already begun, in Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden and France itself. The anti-E.U. movement in Britain is poised to benefit. So is Viktor Orban’s nationalist right government in Hungary, which successfully manipulated the refugees for its own benefit in the summer.