Europe’s refugee crisis: Closing EU borders will not work

JUST as our friends and neighbours in the North can only look on in despair — or even indifference — as Stormont politicians of all hues talk themselves into another frenzy of no-surrender obstructionism, the citizens of Europe, most of whom want a humane response to the growing refugee crisis, can only look on in frustration fast turning to shame as national ministers struggle to agree on how each EU member state might contribute proportionately to a community-wide response.

In the North the remnants of paramilitary terrorist organisations murder each other but on the fringes of Europe, and at its heart too, refugees are living in conditions that are unacceptable, inhumane and a fertile breeding ground for the kind of hatred that populates terrorist organisations like Isis or, if we are to believe what we are told, once drove the Provos in their equally anti-democratic terror campaigns.

Just as Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers has suggested that bodies like the Independent Monitoring Commission and the British National Crime Agency might make a contribution towards breaking this latest impasse — it will hardly be the last one, bad habits have been indulged too often — in determining the status of the IRA and other paramilitary groups German chancellor Angela Merkel has asked for an EU summit next week on refugees. Both women, for the want of a better phrase, want to bang heads together so that we can reach an inevitable conclusion without wasting too much more time pretending that there are a range of options available to resolve each situation.

Mrs Merkel said she did not want to make threats but she did suggest that the EU consider putting financial pressure on states that are reluctant to take in their share of refugees. One of her interior ministers Thomas de Maiziere was not so diplomatic and in a thinly-veiled threat to Eastern European countries opposed to proposales to welcome refugees pointed out that these are the countries that received development funding from the EU. Mr de Maiziere’s hardening attitude may have been influenced by the fact that Hungary shut the main land route for migrants into the EU yesterday.

It is easy to criticise Hungary’s action at this great distance from what is becoming the EU’s frontline but, like the parties in the North, we will have to, sooner or later, play our part by absorbing our share of this exodus of Biblical proportions.

So many elements of this tragedy are taking on a Biblical character, or at least an Old Testament character, that it is becoming increasingly difficult for our secular, latte-fuelled world to know how to respond. Just yesterday Kuwait sentenced seven people to death for their part in an Islamist militant bombing of a mosque last June in Kuwait that killed 27 people. A report yesterday of a family’s flight from Pakistan, during which they passed through Isis checkpoints littered with the heads of refugees the barbarians beheaded for one reason or another, show that we are dealing with something both nebulous and hard edged. Preparing an effective response to these religious fanatics may be even more difficult than solving the refugee crisis.

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