A migration summit in Vienna, Austria, has been overshadowed by tragedy: the gruesome discovery of the bodies of 20 to 50 migrants near the Hungarian border. They had been estimated to be dead for one to two days. It’s not the only recent event of death of migrants, either. Shortly after the story of the tragedy in Austria broke, a ship carrying around 400 migrants sank near the Libyan coast; 201 were rescued from the water. 51 bodies were found in the hold of a ship off of Libya on Wednesday. Overall, at least 2,000 migrants have died trying to reach the European Union this year. Germany alone expects to receive 800 thousand migrants by the end of the year. (While those numbers seem huge, the total population of the EU is estimated at 740 million people.) The EU has yet to set policy standards in place for migration, and their indecisiveness has been criticized by many.
Who are these migrants? Most of them are from the Middle East, North Africa, or the Balkan regions. Almost all are fleeing violence and turmoil in their native lands. Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Greece are the most common points of entry. Hungary is planning to fence off the border with Serbia in an attempt to stem the tide, and it is presumed the victims in the tragedy in Austria entered the country through Hungary. Most are asylum seekers, and the most common countries of entry have set up numerous makeshift migrant camps to deal with the crisis. Approximately 600 thousand asylum seekers entered the EU in 2014. The sheer number of migrants has propelled the rise of both anti-EU groups and anti-immigrant groups.
What’s being done to assist them? For a brief period of time, an Italian sea operation, Mare Nostrum, looked for boats of those smuggling migrants into the EU, but it was shut down at the end of October in 2014. There was a scaled-back search effort in replacement, but critics warned there would be more deaths. The tragedy in Austria is one example that proves exactly that.
The current summit in Austria is looking to prevent such tragedy by a five-point program, including establishing safe havens run by the EU in the migrants’ countries of origin. If those present qualified for asylum they would be given safe passage to the EU. Refugee quotas have also been called for, as well as harsher penalties for human smuggling. Political figures in the U.K. have called for an increase in deportation. Others have called for an increase in places where the migrants might pass safely.
The tragedy in Austria makes it clear that no policy isn’t working. A consistent migrant policy is needed in the EU now.
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)