Emotions always run high in the public debate about mass immigration. On both sides, that is. Both sides can appeal to emotions because there is a great deal of suffering on both sides of the immigration coin. But sound policy cannot be based on emotion alone, and suffering is not a contest – there is no objective standard for who has it worse, there are no winners and thus, politically speaking, there is no point. So here are some facts about migration that have come to light in the past couple of years, and I will try to keep all emotion and interpretation out of it and leave that up to you.
The start of the migration crisis
The current migration crisis started in 2015 and came to a vital crossroads in the second half of that year. On August 31st, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke the words “Wir schaffen das” (“We can do it”) referring to Germany’s ability to take in large numbers of asylum seekers. Two days later, three year old Alan Kurdî drowned at sea while his family were trying to cross from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos. The famous photograph of the deceased boy lying on the beach made the front pages of most news outlets across the world.
While Merkel’s speech symbolically opened the gates to Germany (and Europe by extension) for immigrants, the tragic death of Alan Kurdî and the confrontational photograph led many Western leaders and citizens to proclaim their support for immigration. Europe saw increased support for pro-immigration politicians and organizations, and at the same time people in the Third World took Merkel’s words as an invitation.
Immigration to Europe, particularly by sea, reached a peak in the following months, with most migrants by far applying for asylum in Germany. In all of 2015, 1,257,030 people applied for asylum in EU member states. In 2016 this number was practically the same: 1,205,095.
Besides Frontex (EU border agency) and the Italian Coastguard there are eight European charities or NGO’s which have ships active in the Mediterranean to rescue migrants from sea when they are in danger. At the beginning of the current migration crisis most migrants arrived in Greece, but most of them go to Italy now. The Italian government recently proposed a code of conduct for the NGO’s, but that was rejected by five of them: Doctors Without Borders, Sea-Watch (Germany), Sea-Eye (Germany), Jugend Rettet (Germany) and SOS Mediterranée (France) will not sign. Save The Children (Italy), Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Malta), Proactiva Open Arms (Spain) did agree to the code of conduct.
Most of the NGO’s are privately funded, but Doctors Without Borders, Save The Children and Proactive do receive subsidies for their activities. Sea Eye is funded in part through the donation of criminal fines administered by the courts (which is apparently a fairly common practice in Germany), and MOAS receives funds from subsidized organizations like Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross.
Already in 2016 evidence showed that these European ships were active within several miles of the African coast.
Fabrice Leggeri, head of Frontex, warned that: “we must avoid supporting the business of criminal networks and traffickers in Libya through European vessels picking up migrants ever closer to the Libyan coast. This leads traffickers to force even more migrants on to unseaworthy boats with insufficient water and fuel than in previous years.”
The activity of European NGO ships near the coast of Libya has been working as a magnet to more migrants, and as a reward system for the human traffickers who saw a chance to improve their profit margins. But the NGO’s went even further:
Just a couple of days ago a ship from German NGO Jugend Rettet (“Youths Rescue”) was impounded by Italian investigators for taking illegal immigrants on board of their ship straight from a raft. That means they are not rescuing people from drowning, they really are ferrying them – illegally – from Africa to Europe. That same NGO is also accused of towing the traffickers’ boats back to Libya so that they can sail out again. So there is at least one NGO on the Mediterranean working together with the human traffickers.
Who are these traffickers? Well, they are human traffickers, which means they are criminals. They make money, a lot of money, deliberately putting other people’s lives in danger. They use boats which are often unseaworthy, and always overcrowded, willfully taking the risk of casualties along the way (the father of Alan Kurdî and others attempting to cross on the same boat declared they were given fake or malfunctioning life vests).
It is estimated the traffickers earn over half a million dollars per boat, and it has been shown that many of them have ties to islamic terror groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. This means that a lot of the money made from migrants crossing the Mediterranean ends up in the hands of some of the most notorious terrorists of the world. And they are being helped by European charities.
Another report has shown that human trafficking gangs subject migrants to forced labor, imprisonment, kidnapping, and both physical and sexual abuse. More than 70% of the migrants crossing from Africa to Europe by sea experience such ordeals.
Traffickers have been informing migrants and handing out documents comparing the living conditions in different countries and advising them in which country to apply for asylum. Asylum seekers who get a permit receive help in finding a place to live, which in many cases means that wait list for natives grow longer. There are different rules in different countries, and often even in different cities, but there are excessive examples like in the Dutch town of Oisterwijk which has been giving refugee families 10,000 euros to furnish their new homes. On average, Dutch cities hand out 6,000 euros to a four-person refugee household, in some cities as a loan, but in others (like in Oisterwijk) as a gift.
Still, unrealistic expectations have led to a large number of protests from disappointed migrants. In 2016 groups of Syrian refugees were seen traveling back from Europe to Turkey because they were unhappy with the living conditions, with one of them quoted by a Dutch newspaper saying “In Syria, in spite of the bombs, we were better off than we are here”. Large numbers of asylum seekers from Eritrea and Syria, claiming to have fled war zones, head back for holidays in their home countries. So far, no European country has reconsidered these holidaymakers’ refugee status.
Since 2017 the role of NGO’s in the migrant crisis is being increasingly criticized by the authorities, including Frontex, as mentioned before. In April of this year, Italian prosecutors accused the rescue boats of “colluding with human traffickers”, and by now one ship has been impounded.
It’s interesting to note that the Schengen Treaty says that carriers transporting migrants to the EU should be made to pay for the return of people who are refused entry, plus additional penalties. But so far, this rule is not being enforced.
Italy has threatened to close its ports to the NGO ships saying it couldn’t cope with the mass arrivals of migrants. But it never did, and if it did happen it would probably be against international law. Recently, the mayor of Catania also threatened to block the identitarian activist group Defend Europe from entering the port.
The EU is paying the Libyan coastguard to stop boats from departing, but that is having little effect and may be in breach of international law. And to the East, the EU has made a pact with Erdogan’s Turkey in an attempt to stop the influx, giving Turkey enormous negotiating power over the EU.
Sweden is experiencing such problems that neighboring Norway has warned it would immediately close the borders if the Swedish asylum system would break down. Experts are warning that the German justice system is about to collapse due to the number of asylum seekers appealing against decisions to expel them, and even Merkel, the symbolic mother of the migrant crisis, has admitted that the open door policy was a mistake. A study has shown that the mainstream media adopted an uncritical stance towards the government on migration issues, with the researchers concluding that journalists even copied the vocabulary and slogans of the government and incorporated them into “news” items.
We also know that government and media together are complicit in the covering up of crimes committed by asylum seekers. More than 50 women and girls were sexually assaulted at the We Are Stockholm music festival in Sweden in 2016. It turned out that there had been multiple sexual assaults during the two previous editions of the same festival as well, perpetrated by Afghan immigrants. But the assaults in 2014 and 2015 were kept quiet as the authorities feared that telling the people facts might benefit the right wing Sverigedemokraterna party.
Dutch police have been keeping track of migrant crimes for years, but it took an anonymous tip and a “Freedom of Information Act” (equivalent) request to get them published. The journalists involved have even declared that police leadership offered to ‘bribe’ them with an exclusive scoop if they would not publish the data. Although the police have thousands of pages of information on the subject, and another unspecified amount of local documents to add to that, and there a special task force has been assigned, police leadership denied for a long time having any such information.
German authorities tried to keep the mass sex attacks on New Year’s Eve 2015-2016 quiet. It took days before the mainstream media and the police acknowledged what had happened, even though it later turned out the police did already have all the information.
Continue reading: The facts about migration, Part 2: the migrants