The sudden increase in refugees and migrants is partly explained by the natural momentum of mass migration – but it has also been caused by German Chancellor Angela Merkel
The gruesome civil war in Syria started several years ago. Iraq and Afghanistan have been roiling ever since the U.S. invasions more than a decade ago. Ethnic strife and political repression have been common in parts of Africa for even longer. But the wave of migrants seeking sanctuary from these places in the European Union has only spiked this summer, with thousands of asylum seekers arriving every day. Why are they coming now?
It depends on whom you ask. The migrants themselves, when they arrive in the E.U. by boat on the shores of Greece or walk across border into Hungary, will often say that their choice to migrate in the last few weeks was personal or coincidental. One Syrian woman, whom TIME met last weekend as she walked through northern Serbia with four of her young children, said her husband was imprisoned by the Syrian regime a year ago, and she only fled when he told her how little hope he has of being freed. A young man from Afghanistan, who came ashore in a packed motorboat on Friday morning on the Greek island of Lesvos, said he left home last week mostly because his parents finally finished the months-long process of scrounging up the money for his journey.
But there are many other factors behind the sudden rush. Perhaps the main draw for migrants fleeing Syria was the German government’s pledge last month to take all Syrian asylum applications, regardless of how they reach German territory. Normally, under E.U. rules on migration, a refugee can only claim asylum in the E.U. country he enters first. That means migrants traveling overland from the Middle East can get stuck in the less prosperous nations of southern and eastern Europe. But in light of the chaos unfolding in Syria, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a promise to all Syrian refugees: if you manage to physically reach Germany, you can apply for asylum in Germany.
In effect, this amounted to a breach of the E.U.’s migration rules, so Berlin later tried to walk Merkel’s statement back. But many of the three million Syrians who have fled their homeland in the last four …Read More