Monday, 3 October 2016

On putting refugees on uninhabited Greek islands

Czech President Milos Zeman has suggested to the Financial Times that Greece absorb many of Europe's unwanted migrants by establishing colonies on uninhabited islands. (He said this while standing on the Greek island of Rhodes, in fact). He suggested that the Greeks might offset some of their debt against such services rendered to the EU. This is a bit rich coming from a country which a) contributed economic migrants to the EU when communism fell in 1990, b) supported the second Gulf War against the EU consensus in 2003, thus helping to destabilise the Middle East, creating the present refugee crisis, and c) revoked its relocation quota a month after being pitchforked into it, because of the Paris terrorist attacks in November last year. This is a triplicate of hypocrisy Poland and Hungary also subscribe to. Populists conveniently forget that Greece and Italy already rendered such services to Europe for years but were ignored when they raised the issue and told to process asylum applications under the Dublin II rules, which force the first EU country in which a refugee alights to assume responsibility. Only the refugee explosion of 2015 forced them to admit that the problem is larger than Greece and Italy, and that asylum applications had to be shared out. That, of course, is where the EU consensus was pushed too far and fell apart around the objections of Eastern Europe. Attempts to forge an EU immigration policy have never recovered from that. Now it appears that populists would be happy to turn southern EU into a buffer zone. So I suppose the idea of a two-speed Europe already has broad acceptance.

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