Europe has a population of 740 million of which 500 million are in the European Union (EU). According to the European Union border agency the plethora of refugees entering Europe had increased over the past 10 months. More than 150,000 refugees entered the EU in August 2015 increasing the total influx of refugees to more than half a million for the year 2015.
Although this amount of refugees is not large enough to construe it as an invasion or being over-run when compared to the population of Europe, the European leaders were slow to respond. Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU migration commissioner has called it “the worst refugee crisis facing Europe since World War II.“
For many refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and the abominable ISIS, the Greek islands have been the gateway to enter the European Union. This year alone, more than 259,000 refugees entered Greece by boat via Turkey. The arrival of about 88,000 refugees in the Greek islands in August 2015 was the largest so far, an eleven-fold increase compared to the same month a year ago. Almost 75% percent of the refugees seeking asylum were Syrians.
The Schengen Area
Six founding members: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany created the European Economic Community (EEC) by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. This regional organization aimed to bring about economic integration between its member states, including a common market and customs union.
When the ten member states of the then EEC were not able to reach a consensus on the abolition of border controls, five of its members signed The Schengen Agreement on June 14, 1985, paving the way to the creation of Europe’s borderless Schengen Area. The treaty signed near the town of Schengen in Luxembourg was not implemented in full until 1995.
The Schengen Agreement proposed the gradual abolition of border checks and allow vehicles to cross the common borders of the signatories of the treaty without stopping. It permitted residents in the border areas to cross the borders away from fixed checkpoints.
In 1990, the Schengen Convention supplemented the Schengen Agreement by proposing the abolition of internal border controls and a common visa policy. For most purposes, the Schengen Area with a common visa policy functions as a single country for international travel purposes. The Schengen Agreement and the rules adopted under it were quite separate from the EU structures.
The Schengen Area now comprises 26 European countries. These member states have strengthened their external border controls with non-Schengen states. Out of the current 28 European Union member states, 22 are participants in the Schengen Area.
Countries comprising The Schengen Area
|Denmark (excluding Greenland
and the Faroe Islands)
|Finland (Including Åland Islands)||338,145||5,391,700|
|France (mainland and Corsica only)||551,695||63,929,000|
|Netherlands (excluding Aruba,
Curaçao, Sint Maarten
and the Caribbean Netherlands)
|Norway (excluding Svalbard)||385,155||5,063,709|
|Portugal (Including Madeira and Azores)||92,391||10,647,763|
|Spain (with special provisions for
Ceuta and Melilla)
Currently, the Schengen Area has an area of 1,617,4245 square miles (4,189,111 square kilometers) and a population of over 400 million people.
Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania are four of the six EU members that do not form part of the Schengen Area, are legally obliged and wish to join the Area. The other two, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, maintain opt-outs.
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland have signed the Schengen Agreement even though they are member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and are not in the EU.
The three European microstates, the Vatican, Monaco, and San Marino do not have border controls with the Schengen countries that surround them. Though considered as de facto within the Schengen Area they have not officially signed documents that make them part of the Schengen Area.
The influx of refugees
Since many Eastern European countries are guarding their borders in the face of the influx of refugees, the distribution of refugees among the 28-member EU is somewhat skewed. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), EU countries received more than 437,000 asylum applications from January 2015 to July 2015. Germany received the most applications, followed by Hungary, Sweden, Italy and France.
The migrants from African countries enter the EU through Italy and Spain. Many of those who enter Italy apply for asylum on landing there. Some try to cross into France.
From France, a few try to enter the United Kingdom by perilous means such as getting smuggled in containers through the Eurotunnel from Calais, northern France.
Many Syrians try to reach Italy from Greece while others head to Austria via Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia.
Most refugees try to reach the Schengen Area. From there, they move into Hungary through Macedonia and Serbia. Also, some refugees from Turkey reach Hungary via Bulgaria and Romania. The popular route to enter the Schengen zone is through Norway, by way of Russia and Lebanon.
From Hungary, most refugees continue their journey to richer countries such as Germany and Sweden that have liberal immigration policies.
- Europe’s refugees just follow the ancient routes for the peopling of Europe in the Neolithic (ktwop.com)
- This map shows the routes of Europe’s refugee nightmare — and how it’s getting worse (uk.businessinsider.com)
- MORE THAN 500 000 MIGRANTS DETECTED AT EU EXTERNAL BORDERS SO FAR THIS YEAR (frontex.europa.eu)
- European Economic Community (en.wikipedia.org)
- Schengen Area (en.wikipedia.org)
- Schengen Agreement (en.wikipedia.org)
- Inhumane Treatment of Refugees at EU Borders Shows Europe’s Ugly Face (revolution-news.com)
- EU Leaders Use Crisis to Solidify Their Power (truthandaction.org)
- Russia criticises EU’s handling of refugee crisis (sundiatapost.com)
- EU Summit Divided as German ‘Moral Imperialism’ Attacked (stream.org)