National Security & Defense

European Migration Policy after Paris

Migrants at the Hegyshalom train station in Hungary. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty)

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.

RELATED: How Long Can Europe’s Welfare States Welcome Refugees and Migrants?

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.

RELATED: Eastern Europe’s Compassion Dilemma

All that was happening before the shocking mass murders in Paris. Their main impact has been to sharpen people’s awareness of the dangers of this informal invasion. Some of the murderers entered Europe through Greece. All moved through several countries in the borderless Schengen zone without hindrance. One traveled on a Syrian passport which is now suspected of being fake. If so, the security risks of welcoming refugees without the strictest possible scrutiny are even greater in reality than on paper. Those risks were already formidable. If 15 percent of young Muslim males support jihadist terrorism — and polls suggest that’s a modest estimate — then accepting a million of them means introducing 150,000 more potential terrorists into Europe. And in the case of France those additional security risks come on top of a slow-burning near-revolution in the suburban banlieues of French cities where the alienated children of earlier immigrations from North Africa have now embraced a bitter anti-French Islamism and where the Paris murders were not greeted with horror.

#share#How on earth did major modern governments and EU institutions ignore these horrendous risks to their own security over the summer? Why are some even now resisting the popular pressure for the closing of borders and other measures like those outlined above? Why does the EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker put “saving Schengen” above saving lives?

#related#The answer seems to be that Europe’s mainstream parties of both Left and Right have been infected by a Euro-utopianism that embraces open borders, mass immigration, multiculturalism, and other post-national fantasies that are essentially of the Left. One hears this haunting Euro-utopian melody in such arguments as that we must save “the dream” of a borderless Europe. Borders are not a fit subject for dreams, nor dreaming a suitable activity for governments. And though frontier controls may be a minor inconvenience to the tourist, they are a major one to the terrorist. Ordinary citizens recognize such realities, and at present they are forcing their governments to close borders again and to resist the continuing waves of migration. They want their countries back, which in this context means not only restoring borders but also returning powers (on migration policy, inter alia) from Brussels to national parliaments.

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.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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