LONDON — The daily toll among refugees and migrants desperately trying to reach Europe — 71 suffocated in a truck in Austria and 150 drowned off Libya this week — has dramatically underscored the European Union’s scattered, halting response to increasing waves of asylum seekers.
With tens of thousands of people leaving war-torn or impoverished countries to seek asylum or a better life in Europe, criticism of the bloc’s division and dysfunction is now accelerating, as the number of deaths mounts, crossing 2,500 this year.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has said that the migration crisis is a bigger test for the European Union than even the Greek financial meltdown. She said on Friday that European interior ministers meeting this weekend would be looking into “rapid changes to the asylum system,” and that European leaders could hold an emergency summit meeting “if the preliminary work is done.”
And none too soon. There is no European Union standard for asylum; no common list of countries regarded as in conflict, and thus more likely to produce refugees; and no collective centers where asylum seekers can be met, housed, fed and screened.
Interactive Feature | Traveling in Europe’s River of Migrants Thousands of migrants and refugees are desperately pushing their way through the Balkans, trying to reach Hungary before it seals its border.
Instead, with much of Brussels still on vacation, a kind of free-for-all has set in, with some countries welcoming and others not, some taking legal responsibility for refugees and others flouting international law.
“While Europe is squabbling, people are dying,” said Alexander Betts, a professor and director of the Refugee Studies Center at Oxford University. “For the first time in its history, the E.U. is facing a massive influx of refugees from outside the region, and the E.U. asylum and immigration framework is poorly adapted for it.”
Front-line states like Greece, Italy and now Austria and Hungary are “overwhelmed and increasingly unwilling to take more responsibility,” Mr. Betts said. “Some European states are failing to keep to international law, and there needs to be a more equitable sharing of responsibility.”
In contradiction to the rules of the Dublin Regulation, formerly known as the Dublin Convention, some countries are simply allowing migrants to freely pass through their territory to richer European states without even trying …Read More