Like it or not, in Europe today there are over three million refugees. According to news reports, about half of them, 1.5 million people, will be seeking asylum in Germany. Without doubt more are on the way. Even today there are reports that a further 500,000 refugees could soon be transferred from Turkey to the EU according to a German resettlement plan in the works. Even if Europe today has more absorptive capacity for immigrants to fill jobs than it had at the end of World War II, nonetheless if current migration continues, Europe could soon be facing a crisis even greater than the one it faced back then. It may therefore be useful to reflect on how this problem could best be sorted out.
One of the most significant aspects of the post-war refugee problem was that in large part the people who were resettled, whether in Europe, North America or Argentina, were not dealt with as refugees but rather as displaced persons. A sponsor had to be located and that sponsor had to sign an affidavit of support promising to look after the would-be immigrant, provide food and shelter as well as payment for any travel costs. Often the sponsorship took on the form of a contract for work. This working model should be adopted for the Syrian migration now. While those who can establish they were indeed refugees deserve expedited processing, many of those in Europe today cannot meet the strict legal definition of a refugee yet merit relief just the same.
Germany and other countries are already following procedures they have established for dealing with the migrants. Nonetheless, I would like to venture my view on how the process should be handled.
The starting place should be to require each new arrival to sign a conditional removal order, conditional on them being able to establish their bona fides in the matters related to screening as outlined below. This would not be a threat to anyone who would normally qualify but would make it easier to remove those who do not deserve to be allowed to stay. With such a conditional removal order signed, I would then undertake normal screening including: registering and establishing the identity of each person; doing background security and police checks; arranging medical examinations checking for illnesses, addictions and diseases; checking for previous immigration problems and false documents or misrepresentations and conducting interviews and fact checking.
Much of this is already under way but it is important that all of it be undertaken as soon as possible. Priorities for registration in Europe should be set for some of the migrants. For example, because young age and lack of roots are factors that could pose a potential security threat, single males under the age of 40 should be registered as soon as possible – within say a maximum of three months of their arrival. Failure to meet the deadline, in the absence of extraordinary circumstances, should result in immediate removal. Others should be processed thereafter.
In view of the massive numbers, certain security guidelines need to be established. Among the migrants that should be subject to immediate imprisonment and or deportation would be: serious criminals, members of ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other similar extremist groups, people with contagious diseases or illnesses that will create a serious burden on health services and anyone with serious previous immigration problems such as previous deportations, or persons traveling on false immigration papers.
Certain migrants merit priority processing. Among those I would include legitimate refugees, orphans, widows and widowers, the disabled if they do not pose a significant burden to the health care system, anyone who lost an immediate relative in recent war or on route to Europe and anyone who has close family members in Europe who are willing to help them get established.
To summarize, the current European refugee crisis has become a hot point of disagreement and will be a long term challenge. On an individual level, normal applicants for immigration and their local family members could be substantially delayed by an overburdened immigration bureaucracy struggling to deal with displaced persons. On a national level, talk about succession from the EU in the U.K., clashes with Eastern European leaders about resettlement proposals and disagreements between Germany and France over security policy have already erupted. The crisis could tear the EU apart if disagreements get out of hand. That in turn could even threaten NATO if the willingness to come to any member country’s aid becomes less appetizing due to squabbling over these issues.
If the problem is to be solved, Europe will require substantial help from the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina and other countries willing to accept new arrivals. With the good will of nations coming together to help out, like at the end of World War II, we can tackle this new immigration problem. There is no other reasonable alternative.