Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has excelled itself by issuing, on Friday, travel advisory updates for Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Cyprus and the Czech Republic, all in a single day.
There were a few others too: India, Eritrea, Maldives and Burma. Germany was updated the previous day.
For all of the European countries listed, there is just one reason for the renewed alerts: asylum seekers. Over 13,000 migrants arrived in the southern German city of Munich on Saturday alone, just one day. Authorities there say services to cope with the flood of arrivals are at breaking point.
DFAT’s update for France advises: “There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into France, causing disruption to cross-border road, ferry and rail transport services, particularly for services between Calais and the UK (see Local travel). The level of advice has not changed.”
The wording is similar for the other European countries, though obviously Calais applies only to France. In its travel advice on Germany, issued last Thursday, DFAT adds: “We assess there is a heightened threat of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including Germany. This threat is posed by those motivated by the current conflict in Iraq and Syria.”
How long the disruption will continue is anybody’s guess. Germany yesterday imposed border controls at its southern border with Austria in a desperate attempt to stem the migrant influx. The Czech Republic introduced new controls along its Austrian border and Hungary was this morning reported to have closed its border with Serbia. The Schengen agreement, which allows tourists borderless passage through many European countries, is under extreme pressure. See: Cornerstone of touring Europe comes under severe threat
The total number of migrants heading to Europe, or likely to do so, is unknown. Estimates range from hundreds of thousands to tens of millions, though some suggest the European Union would founder long before the higher figure was reached.
“The current influx of asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants into Western Europe presents a profound challenge to the European Union’s values, solidarity and capacity to simply manage and accommodate such a rapid inflow of people,” comments Mark Beeson, Professor of International Politics at the University of Western Australia.
In an article called The End of Western Europe? published on the academic website The Conversation, Beeson writes:
“Questioning the wisdom or sustainability of a policy of open borders is not necessarily either racist or heartless. No doubt something must be done, but it is far from clear that allowing hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, perhaps tens of millions of people to move where they wish is practically or – even more importantly, perhaps – politically feasible.
“If Germany really commits to accepting one million refugees a year it will rapidly make ‘Germany’ a very different country. It is difficult to imagine that this will be seamlessly accepted there or in any other country, for that matter.”
As Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum wrote last week about the European Union (EU): “The richest economy in the world has a power vacuum at its heart and no army. Now the consequences are literally washing up on Europe’s shores.”
Written by Peter Needham