Saturday, August 29, 2015

Germany just did something huge for Syrian refugees — and for the future of Europe By Amanda Taub

German Chancellor Angela Merkel did something really good this week: Her country will now allow Syrian refugees, who normally would be deported back to wherever they first entered the European Union, to stay and apply for asylum. Thousands of Syrians who would have otherwise faced uncertainty in Europe can now begin the process of rebuilding their lives in Germany. Germany, with the stroke of a pen, has just given an awful lot of Syrian families the chance to start a new life. But this is even more important than that: In addition to being a blessing for these Syrians, it is also a gift to Europe. Migration has become a crisis so great for Europe that, earlier this month, Merkel called it an even bigger challenge for the EU than the Greek debt crisis. She is now leading by example, showing Europe what it must do to overcome that crisis.

Migration has become a crisis for migrants and for Europe

The policy change couldn’t be more necessary. The EU is facing its largest refugee crisis since World War II, and the human cost has already been devastating. But rather than address that human devastation directly, EU countries have for the most part sought to avoid taking any responsibility for it at all. When refugees arrive, EU rules leave them and other migrants trapped in their first countries of arrival until their asylum claims have been processed. For many, that means being marooned in Italy or Greece, which are facing full-scale humanitarian crises as refugee numbers overwhelm the available housing and supplies. Under EU rules, if any of these migrants make their way into Germany, then Germany is supposed to deport them back to their EU country of first arrival. But now, with this change, Syrians can stay in Germany to apply for asylum there. That's a big deal, and could help thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people stay safe from persecution, and from squalid camps in Greece or Italy. Merkel and her government deserve credit for making this important change, particularly at a time when asylum policy is an increasingly volatile political issue in Germany. Perhaps just as important, this is also a step toward addressing one of the most serious political problems facing the EU: how to fairly share responsibility for the migrant crisis.

The rest of Europe needs to follow Germany's lead

What we should hope for is that Germany's reprieve for migrants will set an example, and become one of many steps in Europe toward a fairer system for refugees. Vox Photo