While Europe rushes to steel its external borders against an oncoming wave of migration, its internal political union is dissolving under a storm of populist nationalism. French officials’ ongoing scorched-earth demolition of the migrant camp in Calais known as “the Jungle” was a haphazard stitch on a gaping continental wound. To the east, Hungary’s recent botched referendum further underscores the xenophobic panic driving right-wing forces across Europe’s eastern and southern frontiers.
Yet continental politics are hardly deterring new arrivals entering Europe by land and sea. The dead bodies that have washed ashore show that nothing, not even death, can deter their drive to escape war and deprivation in their homelands.
European Union ministers remain gridlocked over plans to distribute about 120,000 asylum seekers among member states by controversially allotting migrants according to countries’ economic and social capacity. Conservative politicians resisted the concept, which includes potentially “fining” governments about €250,000 for every migrant they reject.
Without a relocation plan, Brussels has resorted to dumping refugees over the border in Turkey, where an increasingly authoritarian government is getting paid to warehouse desperate refugees (yet flouts its duty to grant temporary protection, advocates argue). Thousands of asylum seekers continue to risk their lives each week, crossing the Mediterranean to Italy on flimsy smuggling boats. Rescue patrols pulled about 5,700 migrants, and 14 bodies, from Mediterranean and coastal waters in one weekend in late October.
The populist right, galvanized by Slovak and Hungarian leaders—seed no real social obligation to care for migrants and seekd instead to further militarize borders, despite the fact that few migrants actually want to resettle in their countries and instead are simply crossing toward Germany or another wealthier country.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has warned that Merkel’s “open door” policy would lead to a “self-destructive” “suction effect.” He favors amending Hungary’s constitution to preempt EU migration mandates, with the aim of “preserv[ing] our country’s identity.” Anti-migrant sentiment swelled ahead of the referendum vote, as restrictionists poured millions of euros into hypernationalist propaganda linking Muslim migrants to terrorism, sexual abuse, and endangering Hungary’s “Christian” character. Orban also fantasizes about building a “giant refugee city” to contain Europe-bound refugees in war-torn Libya.