It Started With Graffiti
The war in Syria has led to huge inflows of migrants to Europe. Last year, the number of migrants broke all records. Nowadays, the immigration crisis is the biggest in Europe since the Second World War. The situation in Europe is becoming worse. The European Union has to make a choice between tolerance and safety. The European governments and the EU bureaucracy, trying to avoid accusations of the lack of tolerance, xenophobia, and racism, refuse to introduce drastic measures against the mass and uncontrolled immigration. Thus, they encourage thousands of people to indulge in extremely risky trips, during which they can sink in the seas and die in trucks. At the same time, they warm up racist and xenophobic sentiments in Europe, as hordes of beggar migrants not adapted to the European life are arriving, which does not promote tolerance. The economy of the EU starts to work on cash assistance to migrants and the society sees gradually spreading ideas of disintegration from the European Union. Thus, this paper explores the root of the history of the Syrian war, actions of the EU in that war, problems of migration that has risen and can rise in the future, particularly terrorism, as well as analyses what the EU should do to avoid all the problems and to persuade that the EU has to crack down and limit the wave of immigration to its borders.
The Root of the History of the Syrian Refugee Crisis
The real beginning of the conflict in Syria can be considered as the 1950-1960 years when after attempts to create the United Arab Republic with Egypt in 1958 and the military coup in 1963 the Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Baath) came to power, whose members were alawites, i.e. followers of a small movement of Islam and a minority in Syria. It constituted almost the entire ruling elite of the state. In 1970, a bloody dictator Hafez al-Assad came to power. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad came to power. He began economic reforms that led to an increase in social inequality.
The situation in Syria is a part of the Arab Spring, during which people from Arab countries has been demanding more political freedom and overthrow of the autocracy. Successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt encouraged Syrian protesters. They used such means as marches, hunger strikes, revolts, and vandalism to get rid of almost fifty years of the Baath Party’s rule. Bashar al-Assad refused to make concessions and began to suppress dissatisfaction with an iron hand.
Everything started on March 6, 2011, in the city of Dara when two boys were arrested and subjected to torture for the graffiti stating “People want an overthrow of the regime”. The number of protests increased and for their suppression the Syrian government began to use tanks and snipers. In the most troubled areas, water and electricity were blocked and security forces resorted to confiscation of flour and food. In summer of 2011, Sunni insurgents, leading an armed struggle against Bashar al-Assad’s regime (the Sunnis make up the majority of Syria's population), stated about the establishment of the Syrian Free Army, which later received financial and political support from the West, the Arab League, and Turkey. As a result, armed clashes spread throughout the country, each time increasing towards the end of the year and involving larger organizations.
In August of 2011, the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda intensified its activities in Syria, which later became the group known as Islamic State (ISIL). At the beginning of 2012, a grouping called Al-Nusra Front was founded ("Al-Nusra Jabhat"), which is a representation of Al-Qaeda on the territory of Syria and Lebanon. In 2012, Iran began to play an increasingly active role in the conflict, supporting Bashar al-Assad. Troops of Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah were deployed into Syria and they have been fighting on the side of the government troops since then. In June of 2012, Syria for the first time admitted that it had chemical weapons stockpiles. In August, US President Barack Obama called on Assad’s regime not to move to the "red line" and not to use a weapon of mass destruction. Despite this, in August government forces of Syria began to use "barrel bombs", dropping the hand-made ordnance (container with liquid filled with explosives and pieces of metal) on rebel positions (often in residential areas). In December of that year, the first reports of the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s troops were recorded. In March of 2013, the Arab League decided to help the Syrian rebels with weapons. At the same time, jihadists received some funding, in particular, the Al-Nusra Front. On August 21, 2013, there was made a chemical attack by government troops in the suburbs of Damascus - Gut. From 281 to 1,729 people were killed, including children. Because of the Bashar al-Assad’s brutal methods of government and the use of chemical weapons, the US intervened in the conflict. In September of 2013, as a result of international pressure, Syria agreed to destroy its arsenal of chemical weapons. In February of 2014, the Islamic State abandoned Al-Qaeda and ISIL and Al-Nusra Front became rivals. In the summer of 2014, the militants of the Islamic State grabbed many territories in Syria and Iraq, including Mosul. They started brutally killing Western hostages. In February of 2015, there was founded a coalition of Kurds as well as the rebel group called Jaish al-Fatah. They recaptured from ISIL 9.4% of the occupied territories. In this war, over 220 thousands of people have died and 11.6 millions of people, which is near a half of the population of Syria, have been forced to leave their homes. Over 4 million of Syrians are considered to be refugees.
The Actions of the EU
The European Union tries not to engage in the military actions in Syria. However, it takes an active position of combating terrorists’ organizations in Syria and the Syrian government that violates human rights. The active EU participants of combats are Great Britain, German, Italy, and France. France is the only European country that takes part in the military actions. It has imposed a lot of sanctions on the country. The EU has banned the entry into its territory for Syrian officials responsible for the use of force against civilians. Their European assets have been frozen. It has also earlier banned the import of weapons and other tools that can be used for repressions. However, in 2013 the European Union did not extend the arms embargo to the Syrian rebels. Thus, each EU country individually makes a decision whether to supply the arms to the rebels or not. In addition, the EU has imposed financial sanctions. It has banned the financing of trade with Syria, provision of loans to the Syrian government, and trade in Syrian debt obligations. The Syrian banks are now prohibited to have subsidiaries in the EU, as well as to invest in European banks. Moreover, oil revenues account for a third of Syria's budget revenue, which is the source that the EU has blocked. The European Union also prosecutes inquiries on criminal actions made in Syria.
Problems of Migration
The European Union has faced serious challenges of the unusual dynamic influx of refugees from the Middle East (mainly from Syria and Iraq). The quantity of refugees leaving their homes because of the war and trying to get into the EU has significantly grown during the year. Only from January to June of 2015, the flow of migrants through the Mediterranean Sea has increased by 83% as compared to the last year. From January to July of 2015, 438,000 illegal immigrants asked shelter in Europe, 126,315 people of whom are inhabitants of Syria.
The lack of transparent rules for admission and uncontrolled movement of refugees have resulted in numerous human casualties on the way to Europe and in Europe. During the first five months of the year, more than 1,800 migrants sank in the Mediterranean Sea, which is 20 times more than during the same period last year. In eastern Austria, there were found 71 bodies of refugees in an abandoned closed truck, who most likely suffocated from the lack of oxygen during the illegal traffic.
All this has caused serious problems and chaos in Europe. The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said that the main problem caused by migrants is not the influx of migrants, but the lack of solidarity in the adoption of common rules for solving resettlement problems, which leads to a significantly uneven load on the migration services of some European countries. As a result, a massive influx of migrants threatens the existence of the Schengen Agreement and contradictions between EU countries on resettlement of migrants deepen the rift in the EU.
Moreover, a significant inflow of migrants also creates a serious financial burden on the EU. Thus, in 2015 the European Commission has allocated 2.4 billion euros to address problems of migration and, obviously, these costs will rise. The governments of individual countries also allocate funds for the resettlement of migrants. A preservation of the current dynamics of the influx of Middle Eastern migrants in the near future will lead to further growth of the economic burden that will fall on national budgets and, as a result, on shoulders of ordinary citizens, i.e. taxpayers of the EU.
Furthermore, migrants also create additional social burdens because of the lack of respect to norms and traditions of host countries. Thus, in Hungary provided food and other assistance for migrants were thrown out or abandoned on roadsides, which turned the location of migrants into extensive landfills. Besides, on the borders of Serbia and Hungary severe clashes between migrants, nationalists, and the police occur.
Today, many experts rightly note that a constantly growing number of refugees creates a fertile ground for a substantial increase in support for right-wing and nationalistic political forces in European states. Despite the presence of a marginal segment of citizens expressing their solidarity with forced migrants, the general trend shows that the influx of refugees creates tangible prerequisites for the growth of social tension and general displeasure in the society. Thus, in the near future there is a high probability of strengthening of positions of such parties as "Jobbik" in Hungary, "National Front" Marine Le Pen in France, "National Democratic Party" in Germany, and several other parties, namely in Austria and Greece, for which conservatism, support of greater control over immigration, and protection of "national values and interests" act as a unifying force. It can be seen that principles and values that the above mentioned forces profess go in contradiction with liberal values that underlie the idea of the European Community. Not accidentally, a clearly expressed "euroscepticism" or negative attitude to European integration unites right-wing political forces. Thus, the strengthening of the right forces’ position at the level of the EU-member states, which will likely occur with further aggravation of the refugees problem, will naturally strengthen the voice of "Eurosceptics" at the level of European politics and will serve as another factor weakening the already quite fragile idea of the European Union as such.
Another significant problem is additional pressure of arrived refugees on the labor market in Europe, which in turn can aggravate the unemployment problem even more than it is today. Thus, to avoid all these important problems the EU has to crack down and limit the wave of immigration across its borders.
Another problem concerning the refugees’ influx is terrorism. Almost every known terrorist is a Muslim and near 90% of Syrians are Muslims. Terrorists can enter Europe under the guise of refugees. Thus, with the influx of Syrian refugees there appears a threat of terrorism, which has already happened in France.
The French capital was attacked by terrorists on November 13, 2015. At eleven o'clock in the evening, in several areas of Paris terrorists opened fire from automatic weapons. Targets of terrorists were visitors of cafes and restaurants located on the terrace near the Place de la République, a pretty bustling place, especially on a Friday night. From 5 to 10 heavily armed men were moving in cars and shooting at a close range at everyone on their way. According to the latest data, 47 people were killed and many more were injured. After the street massacre, the terrorists took refuge in the concert hall "Bataklan" taking people who were there as hostages. At that time, there was a concert of a musical group and almost the entire hall with a capacity of more than 1,000 people was filled with visitors. The operation to free the hostages ended at three o'clock in the morning and two terrorists were killed by the riot police. About 70 people died there, while lots of visitors were injured. Attacked metropolitan areas were completely blocked by law enforcement agencies. The authorities appealed to local residents, asking them not to leave their homes. The situation on the ground remained tense. Periodically, there were heard shootouts with automatic weapons. Another place of the tragic events was the main metropolitan stadium "Stade de France" where on Friday night there was held a friendly football match between the national teams of France and Germany. The meeting was attended by French President Francois Hollande. Near the stadium, several explosions were organized. They were made by suicide bombers who tried to enter the stadium. Due to the emergency, the match was interrupted and the head of the state was evacuated to lead the crisis center. For security reasons and out of fear of repeated explosions, the authorities did not allow the audience to leave the stadium for a few hours. As a result of the concerted action by law enforcement officials, they managed to avoid many victims at the "Stade de France". Only a few people were killed, including terrorists themselves. France closed its borders and introduced an emergency situation. This was announced by President Francois Hollande when he gathered an emergency meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers. T200 soldiers were brought into the streets of the city to strengthen the police forces. The curfew was introduced in Paris for the first time in 71 years, whereby the last time when the state of emergency was declared occurred in 1944.
The responsibility for the attacks has been taken by the organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Francois Hollande also said that militants of the ISIL were involved in the incident. Terrorists stressed that "eight brothers donned explosive vests and assault rifles, and attacked the carefully selected locations in the heart of the French capital." At the same time, militants called Paris "the capital of filth and perversion". Terrorists of the ISIL recorded a video message, in which they promised to disrupt the peaceful life of citizens in France. The representative of the ISIL also said in the recording that until France stopped bombing, its people would not have peace and would be afraid even to go to the market. Besides, the terrorist urged French Muslims to join the grouping. "This is for Syria" are the words that accompanied the attackers’ actions.
What Should the EU Do?
The opinions on what the European Union should do with the influx of refugees have divided. One group says that Europe has to be solidary, as it has always been, to people struggling from the hostilities in their home countries that do not depend on them. A lot of people have lost their homes, live under a constant threat of death, and need a shelter. Moreover, the EU is obliged by the law to provide the right to security and respect for human dignity and therefore has to accept refugees. In this case, such solidarity of the EU will cause a lot of problems of migration mentioned above. To avoid this, the EU should do what another group says, i.e. to lower and restrict the influx of migrants. The EU is ready to assist refugees and it has proved this, but its abilities are limited.
A lot of people come to Europe not from hotspots, but from camps on the territory of countries bordering Syria where they are safe. Many migrants do not come to Europe in search of security, but to pursuit the life, which will be better than in refugee camps. However, it must be remembered that the fundamental right to a better life does not exist. The EU countries should return such people to places they came from. They have to let in only refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq that are really suffering.
The EU should reform the migration legislation. It has to increase border controls and create effective refugee reception centers. These centers have to properly register migrants. Migrants should be moved from strongly crowded countries to other EU countries on the basis of a fair distribution mechanism. Europe has to strengthen immigration laws, including increasing prison terms for illegal border crossing. A good way will be to provide severe restrictions on benefits for non-residents, for example, to cancel assistance for housing, to limit payment of unemployment benefits, to provide them after three months, and to pay them for no more than six months and only to those who can prove their chances of finding a job. Besides, a huge number of immigrants put pressure on the entire social sphere, from the housing market to medicine. Therefore, restriction of privileges is a necessary measure. Moreover, the EU should provide individual verification at borders and increase control on highways. In addition, Europe has to reduce quotas on the distribution of immigrants to avoid congestion. The right way is to start fighting against smugglers at the sea who carry people. All this will limit the wave of immigration to European borders and prevent terrible consequences of the influx of refugees.
The Syrian war started from a written graffiti created by two boys who were arrested and subjected to torture. During the war, there have been killed thousands of people and over 4 million of Syrians are considered to be refugees. It has caused a huge influx of migrants to Europe. Only from January to July of 2015, 438,000 illegal immigrants asked for shelter in Europe. It causes and will continue causing a lot of problems in the EU. The EU must create extremely strict rules for issuing a refugee status, stop programs of material support to those who arrive, create a strong and almost obligatory integration of those who have already arrived in the local community, and implement a number of other measures. It will cause a lot of outrage from the leftist and human rights activists, as well as accusations of callousness, violation of minority rights, unrespect to other people's culture, traditions, and, of course, racism. However, contrary to the allegations of cruelty, these measures will put an end to the news of thousands of illegal immigrants drowning or dying in other way. No one will go to Europe if the chance to stay there will be zero. Such policies will knock the ground from under the feet of the extreme right and neo-Nazis, whose coming to power will tighten the screws even stronger. Europe itself will be able to preserve its identity, ceasing its mutation into the United European Emirates.