By John Browne, Senior Market Strategist, Euro Pacific Capital, Inc.
Donald Trump has successfully placed immigration at the center of the U.S. Presidential election. But while the issue is still largely a debating point in the United States, it has quickly and violently become a life and death issue for the European Union, which is in the midst of the most significant immigration and refugee crisis since the Second World War.
The BBC reports, “More than 300,000 migrants have risked their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, according to the UN. This compares with 219,000 for the whole of 2014.” (8/28/15) By including refugees, AFP News Agency puts the figure even higher, stating “Nearly 340,000 refugees and migrants illegally crossed the border into Europe from January to July 2015, according to the EU’s border agency Frontex. The figure compares to 280,000 for the whole of 2014.” (8/31/15) This promises a drastic increase for all of 2015.
The spike in immigration in Europe has its roots in general disintegration in the Middle East and North Africa, which in itself is a function of flawed Western interventionism and botched foreign policy. With war tensions in the Middle East and the rise of ISIS, the suffering of the local civilians has been appalling. With the political and social institutions collapsing in failed states such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Libya, those leaving likely see no possibility of returning. So, unlike in years past, they are not willing to stop in refugee camps to await developments in their home countries. They have made the decision to go all the way to Europe, and they are willing to risk all to get there.
The waves of immigrants, both refugees and migrants, tend to enter the southern periphery countries including Greece, Italy and Spain in addition to new eastern EU member countries like Hungary. Immigrants perceive these EU countries as close with porous borders. Furthermore, these periphery countries condone lax border controls because they understand that these immigrants have no wish to settle in their countries. Rather, the migrants are intent on moving out fast, under the EU’s Schengen Plan, into the richer northern countries, like Germany and the UK, which also offer more generous social benefits to newly arrived immigrants.
Notably, excluding the UK and Ireland, which were granted an opt out, the 26 remaining nations of the EU have accepted membership of the Schengen Area. Membership requires each nation to abolish all passport and other types of control at their common intra-EU borders. Thus, once migrants have entered the EU through the relatively porous southern borders, they can move at will, like any EU citizen, to any member country, with the exception of the UK and Ireland. Naturally, migrants head to those relatively rich countries. This strains the availability of housing, health, education, social security and jobs greatly to the cost and disadvantage of legitimate local citizens. Read More..