The European Union (E.U.) has been anything but unified over the migration crisis. But it did accomplish a limited, but still significant, step when its members agreed to a plan to distribute 120,000 asylum seekers among E.U. member states. The vote wasn’t without rancor and wasn’t unanimous: Four Eastern European nations strongly opposed the plan.
It also didn’t go far enough, given the numbers of migrants landing on the shores of Greek islands in hopes of getting to Germany, Sweden or other northern nations on the continent. The New York Times reports that an estimated 1.3 million will apply for asylum in just six countries this year and that there are 4.7 million asylum seekers in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Beyond those from war-torn countries, millions more are desperate to escape failed states in the Mideast and Africa.
“We have to work on solving the crisis that created this,” Rachad Bouhlal, Morocco’s ambassador to the U.S., told a Star Tribune editorial writer this week in a visit coordinated by the Minnesota International Center. “We have to face this phenomenon by working on cooperating with Europe on how to stop this migration not only by security measures. … When you talk to [migrants], they aspire to go back to their countries because they left everything behind.”
Bouhlal’s right, but no matter what’s left behind in Syria, few will return until the Assad government and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant stop indiscriminately killing innocents.
Meanwhile, the E.U. also agreed to raise $1.1 billion to give to the United Nations refugee agency and the World Food Program for use in front-line states in the Mideast that are handling the Syrian influx.
But the only long-term solution is to stop the fighting through a negotiated settlement, and that will require global diplomacy. Next week’s U.N. General Assembly arrives at the right time for world leaders to aggressively push for peace. In an encouraging diplomatic development, President Obama is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the session. Obama should press the case that global powers must end the carnage.
“The international community,” Bouhlal said, “has to do everything we can because it’s a humanitarian obligation.”