Much earlier this year, long before the Paris murders, most practical people had arrived at a clear idea of what measures were needed to improve European immigration policy and to stabilize the crisis (though “crisis” is a kind description of the mass non-military invasion of Europe mainly by young male migrants from the Middle East and Africa claiming to be Syrian refugees). These measures included the establishment of refugee-processing centers outside the European Union, probably in North Africa, Turkey, and Lebanon; maintaining a clear distinction between refugees with a right of asylum and migrants without one; a firm official refusal to admit anyone into the European Union who had not been processed in this way; the return of migration policy from international bodies to national agencies; the re-imposition of national border controls and the strengthening of the EU’s external borders; the restoration of strict deportation procedures; and a set of international policies designed to help genuine refugees to live and work as near as possible to the homes from which they had fled and presumably hoped to return.
These common-sense measures are hardly radical; every one of them has been a part of most nations’ immigration rules until quite recently. Nor do they amount to a panacea; thousands of illegal immigrants with fake identity documents evaded border controls while these measures were in force over the years. But they would have made things better and — what is at least as important — prevented them getting even worse than they did during Europe’s long hot summer. From the standpoint of the migrants, they would have deterred people from moving thousands of miles, risking their lives, and losing their savings in the often vain hope of living permanently in Germany or Sweden. From the standpoint of Europeans in the path of the invasion, they would have protected them from disorder, from the high social costs of accepting migrants into their communities, and (as it now appears) from increased security risks both personal and national. Overall, they would have reduced the widespread sense of anarchy on the ground and impotence in national and European councils that this medieval-style volkerwanderung has provoked.
Yet the EU and most national governments moved in exactly the opposite direction to such practical measures. Initially they more or less wrung their hands helplessly in the face of the arriving migrants and scrambled to find them help and temporary accommodation without any idea of how they would handle them in the long run. When some governments in Central Europe, notably Hungary, sought to halt or control the invasion (often in compliance with EU rules), they were denounced in extravagantly moralistic terms. Finally, German chancellor Angela Merkel (acting contrary to EU rules) issued an unlimited invitation to Syrian refugees to come to Germany. At that point the numbers of migrants setting out — most of them neither refugees, nor Syrians, nor even poor by non-European standards — began to rise, people across Europe began to resist, and governments began to close their borders as the costs of open borders became insupportable.
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It will be a long battle. European institutions have been designed to limit democracy and to protect European integration from the voters. Euro-elites are deeply committed to their fantasies of power and virtue. Returning from a visit to Germany where he had held conversations with people at the top of German political society, Adam Garfinkle of The American Interest was astounded at the degree to which even conservative elites were captive to Euro-utopianism:
Even the Chancellor, who by German standards is far from a raving leftist, appears to firmly believe that everyone must be a multiculturalist for moral reasons, and that all people who want to preserve the ethno-linguistic integrity of their communities — whether in Germany or in Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere — are acting out of base motives. . . . That is not racism in Europe any more than nervousness about immigrants is racism here in the United States. . . . It is simply preferring the constituency of a high-social trust society, from which, social science suggests, many good things come: widespread security, prosperity, and a propensity toward generosity being prominent among them.
Mrs. Merkel would perhaps reply that she places generosity above social cohesion. But when governments override their citizens’ preference for social cohesion to the point of exposing them to civil war and mass murder, they have lost contact with more than reality.