Police firing tear gas and water cannons clashed in Paris on Saturday with thousands of protesters angry over rising car fuel costs and President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies, the second weekend of “yellow vest” protests across France.
How did we get here? Since 2015, European leaders have been still struggling with the refugee influx that has shaken the entire bloc, ever since they began to arrive on overcrowded boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Arrivals leaped from 60,000 in 2010 to 280,000 in 2014 to over one million in 2015. In 2014 and 2015 alone, many thousands died while making the journey to cross the Mediterranean, leading Pope Francis to describe the Mediterranean as a “vast cemetery.” Almost 80 percent of the newcomers sought protection from conflicts in the Middle East. A larger contingent came from central Africa, the Horn of Africa, and countries such as The Gambia, Nigeria, and Senegal, most without an entry visa.
Europe was still reeling from the 2008-9 economic recession, and on top of it, it’s migration rules disproportionately charged Spain, Greece and Italy with processing asylum requests. Attempts to distribute asylum seekers more evenly across the bloc’s member states failed spectacularly even after repeated attempts. Meanwhile, nationalist right-wing political parties quickly gained ground across Europe, fomenting fears of an invasion by refugees. Fearing political losses, centrist parties hardened their stances on immigration, promising to end the crisis.
The near-term solution to this migration problem is for the Europeans to consider “Marshall Plan with Africa,” where Europeans will assist in development assistance to eliminate some of the “root causes” of migration, with a focus on education, unemployment and economic development. Second, and the urgent need is for that Europeans must clamp down on the migration with tighter border security efforts. The long-haul might require more calibrations and sophistication of these, or other strategies, but the immediate need is to take assertive action and control this migration problem that has many unintended consequences for the entire European Union.