In recent months, the media across the globe has been consumed with coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe. At the same time in the United States the coverage has had competition in the form of presidential campaign events and controversies exemplified by Donald Trump. The recent civil war in Syria and the spread of ISIS have forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their respective home countries into Turkey and North Africa and make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean in overladen and unsafe vessels. The results of these mass migrations have been tragic and overwhelming in scope. The most recent episode of this ongoing saga has been the very recent efforts of a large amount of these refugees to enter Europe, and specifically to make their way to the more appealing western European states such as Germany and France. Under such a strain, I question the viability of the continuation of the Schengen Area.
While the refugees pouring into Europe are not even of majority Syrian origin, events there have made it the face of the crisis. The Syrian Civil War began in March of 2011, between the established government of Bashar al-Assad and various rebel groups which proved unable to join together into a united front. In coming months, unrest in other states and the rise of the terrorist organization ISIS exploded the number of displaced individuals in the region into the millions. In the past two months or so, however, there has been a massive movement of these refugees from camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon (and from locations across North Africa) into Southern and Eastern Europe.
There is unrest in these states over the mass influx of dislocated refugees, most of whom are Muslim and also do not possess skills marketable in these various destination countries. Already this has been made blatantly clear by the burning of one of the refugee housing units in Germany. Protests are also being carried out across the region in the face of the varied responses of the EU nations, most of whom are not as eager as Angela Merkel to allow in a seemingly endless wave of migrants. This eagerness was tempered recently by a seeming reversal by Merkel, in her request to the European Union to establish a quota system for the relocation of migrants from their temporary holding areas in Greece, Hungary and Croatia. This was passed, but in a surprising move by the EU not with a consensus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia having voted against. Also, the plan only relocates 120,000 migrants which, while admirable, is only a portion of the nearly half a million refugees that the UN says have crossed into Europe in the past year.
At the same time as these debates are raging, individual nations have begun to take action on their respective borders. Germany has ‘closed’ their border with Austria and shut down rail lines between it and Hungary. At the same time, Hungary has issued plans for the construction of a wall on its vulnerable border, which in turn led to an ‘icing’ of relations with neighboring Croatia. This is only one of many issues that have brought to light a severe weakness in the Schengen Area and with a unified European border control policy/enforcement apparatus.
The flow of refugees will not slacken anytime soon, because in existing camps and in the respective states of origin, conditions are not improving and show no sign of doing so in the future. The financial crisis in Greece and other states will also likely continue, along with internal unrest across the continent over this influx of migrants. If the leaders of the various nations cannot manage their own domestic factions, and diverging border policies continue then it is possible that the Schengen Area will collapse.