The horrors of the European migrant crisis were brought to the fore last week with the discovery of 71 bodies in an abandoned refrigeration truck in Austria. The victims, believed to be refugees from Syria and Afghanistan, are thought to have suffocated to death. In the EU, the summer of 2015 is surely proving to be a watershed in refugee headlines.
An estimated 2,500 migrants have died so far this year while trying to make the journey to Europe across the Mediterranean. Around 1,600 migrants were rescued by the Italian coastguard over the weekend, with hundreds of thousands more fleeing war, oppression, or poverty in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.
The increasing refugee death toll is causing European Union governments to scramble into action, with ministers of the member states set to meet on Sept. 14 to find a solution to the unprecedented migration crisis.
Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU presidency, has called the extraordinary meeting of the interior ministers of all 28 member states to discuss the prevention of human trafficking as well as the repatriation of some of the migrants.
With Germany expecting about 800,000 asylum seekers to arrive in the country this year alone, German chancellor Angela Merkel has called on fellow EU countries to do more. “If Europe has solidarity and we have also shown solidarity towards others, then we need to show solidarity now,” she said.
The migrant crisis has prompted criticism of the varied policies and laws European nations follow when dealing with asylum seekers, many of which are at odds with one another.
Rising anti-immigration and nationalist sentiment is causing several governments to refuse to take in refugees. Many countries are opposing EU proposals to agree on a common plan, while also toughening their asylum policies and increasing their border security. Hungary in particular has come under fire for building a fence along its border to keep out migrants.
Other critics have blamed the Europe’s Schengen borderless system for exacerbating the crisis, though the European Commission says the Schengen rules are sound and do not require reforms.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi believes that it is the rising death toll that will ultimately push EU states to adopt a unified approach to tackle the problem. “It will take months, but we will have a single European policy on asylum, not as many policies as there are countries,” he said.