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Hungary has become the latest flashpoint in Europe’s escalating migrant crisis. Police in Budapest provoked angry protests Tuesday when they barred hundreds of migrants from getting on trains bound for Western Europe. Neighboring Austria disrupted vehicle traffic from Hungary, saying it was part of efforts to crack down on smugglers. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel called on all E.U. nations to take in its fair share of migrants. Europe is experiencing the biggest movement of people since World War II as hundreds of thousands flee war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa. We get an update on the influx of migrants and refugees in Europe.
- David O'Sullivan E.U ambassador to the U.S.
- Demetrios Papademetriou President emeritus and distinguished senior fellow, Migration Policy Institute; president, Migration Policy Institute Europe.
- Frances Burwell Vice president, European Union and Special Initiatives, the Atlantic Council.
- Andrew Byrne Reporter, Financial Times.
MS. TAMARA KEITHThanks for joining us. I'm Tamara Keith of NPR sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's out for a voice treatment. Already this year, hundreds of thousands of people have fled war-torn Syria and other nations in the Middle East and North Africa. Europe is their primary destination. Hungary and Austria have become the latest pressure points. In Budapest yesterday, Hungarian authorities stopped hundreds of migrants hoping to get to Germany.
MS. TAMARA KEITHAustria has toughened border controls. Joining me in the studio to talk about Europe's escalating migrant crisis, we have Demetrios Papademetriou of the Migration Policy Institute of Europe and Frances Burwell, Europe analyst with The Atlantic Council. Thanks for joining us. And first, though, joining us by phone from Budapest is Andrew Byrne of The Financial Times. Hi, Andrew.
MR. ANDREW BYRNEHi there. How are you?
KEITHI'm good. Can you -- you're reporting there. What is it like? What is the situation?
BYRNEWell, yes, well, just maybe to start by giving your listeners some background...
BYRNE...they may be wondering why it is that Hungary has become this flashpoint in this migrant crisis. And it's simply because many of the thousands of Syrian and Afghan refugees and other migrants coming to Europe have chosen to enter the European Union at Hungary. It's the European Union's gateway country. They travel overland through the Balkans and enter into Hungary and almost all of ones that I've met, all of the migrants and refugees, tell me that their ultimate destination is Germany.
BYRNENow, Hungary has come in for some criticism for its approach to this crisis. It has build a razor wire fence on the border and the prime minister has said that migration poses a threat to European civilization. But the situation re-escalated here on Monday when some of the 3,000 migrants that have been arriving here each day had gathered at Budapest's main Keleti station.
BYRNEThis is the central station in the city.
KEITHThe train station there.
BYRNEThat's right. And if you can imagine, it's been turned into a kind of a makeshift refugee camp. Now, until now, the Hungarian authorities had prevented the passengers from boarding trains, unless they had a valid EU passport. And on Monday, there appeared to be a temporary relapse in that rule. Police were simply overwhelmed by migrants and an estimated 3.5 thousand made it onto trains to Austria and Germany.
BYRNEAnd this prompted a clamp down on Tuesday when the station was evacuated and hundreds of migrants were pushed outside, prompting angry protests. The latest is that those protests are continuing. The migrants still want to get to Germany and they're camped outside the station, demanding to be allowed inside.
KEITHAnd we should say that they've been through a lot by the time that they get to that point.
BYRNEThat's right. I mean, many of the migrants that I spoke to -- and they come from places like Aleppo or Idlib that are often occupied by Islamic militants. They left their homes one month, maybe two or three months ago, and traveled overland by foot. They're mostly young men, but there's also quite a lot of families with young children. If they came up through the Balkans, many of them tell me that they experienced theft by police and by armed bandits on the streets and then they oftentimes had to crawl through this new razor wire fence on the border with Hungary to enter Hungary.
BYRNENow, the trouble for many of them is that it seems to be -- in spite of the sense it seems to easier to arrive in Hungary than to leave it and almost all of them tell me that they really don't wish to remain here. They oftentimes have family in Germany or Sweden. They think they have a chance of a better life there and that's their ultimate destination.
KEITHThis is sort of baffling, then, that they get to Hungary and then they're stuck in Hungary and it sounds like Hungary doesn't really want them either.
BYRNEYes, it's sort of a paradoxical situation. The government here has defended itself from what it sees as unfair criticism by other European governments who said that it has taken -- the French government described Hungary's approach to the migrant crisis as scandalous, by building this fence and by refusing to participate in an EU plan to share out refugees among member states.
BYRNESo the government, on the one hand, is quite alarmed by and quite hostile to even the idea of immigration. But on the other hand, it says that it has a responsibility as an EU border state. It has a responsibility to protect the EU's external borders, to apply EU asylum rules, which require them to register and process asylum seekers and to prevent them from traveling on to other EU countries unless they have passports or visas.
BYRNEAnd, of course, if you're a Syrian who left Aleppo, you almost certainly do not have a passport or valid visa.
KEITHAnd meanwhile, Germany is saying, we'll take them or at least some of them, but they can't get to Germany or they're basically in some sort of terminal situation at the train terminal.
BYRNEYeah. They're stuck in a kind of limbo situation here. Now, under EU rules, the so-called Dublin Three rules, the first EU country in which an asylum seeker arrives is supposed to process that asylum seeker's claim for refugee status. And that country bears the responsibility for that claim. Now, Germany -- and for that reason many migrants don't wish to apply for asylum here in Hungary, but are stopped by authorities.
BYRNENow, the Hungarian government here, in a sense, indirectly, has blamed Germany for causing the chaotic scenes of the train station on Monday because the German government said its officials would be more flexible in assessing the asylum claims of Syrians who may have already arrived in an EU country previously. They said they would allow them to remain if they eventually got to Germany.
BYRNEAnd from the point of view of Hungary and Austria, which is another transit country, this, in a sense, many officials say added to the kind of confusing situation and the swirling rumors around the train station at the start of this week and that has only added to the frustration of the migrants I spoke to, who really feel they're in an intolerable situation at the station.
BYRNEAnd really, they just want to be allowed to leave.
KEITHNow, there's also an issue with trafficking. Late last week, we heard about a truck where something like 70 migrants or maybe more were found dead. How is trafficking playing in all of this? Where does it fit into the -- yeah.
BYRNEThat's right. Yeah. I mean, that incident in Austria was obviously a very tragic incident and in which 71 people, including eight women and four children who had been put into a refrigerated truck and driven from Budapest to Austria -- now, remember, again, these migrants aren't generally allowed on the trains so oftentimes they seek out covert ways of reaching Germany through traveling in trucks in the back cars.
BYRNEUnfortunately, there was 71 people crammed into a very small truck and they suffocated and the truck was found abandoned. Now, the police in Hungary have arrested five suspects in connection with that case and they say it's a Hungarian and Bulgarian human trafficking ring and the main suspect was a Bulgarian man of Lebanese descent.
BYRNEIt's hard to say exactly how many human traffickers are in operation, what proportion of irregular migration is being channeled or directed by human traffickers. It's a criminal underworld that's rather murky. It's rather informal and, of course, these people operate without wishing to be detected. I mean, it's well known that for many years, these trafficking rings have been operating in the Balkans, in several non EU states as well as EU states and the response now, since that tragic event on Tuesday, has been further to be greater police checks on western-bound trucks leaving Hungary.
BYRNEAnd the Austrian police have been very thorough in examining trucks on the highways from Hungary. But that has had the side effect of causing, you know, 20-mile long tail-backs on these highways and, of course..
KEITHTail-backs, traffic jam?
BYRNETraffic jams run the whole length of highways towards Germany and Austria. And, of course, you know, a founding principle of the European Union's so-called Schengen Zone is that you should border-free travel within the EU and so these checks, these police controls appear to be undermining this very treasured and very cherished principle of a borderless European Union.
KEITHAre the traffickers exploiting a situation or are they making the situation worse or both?
BYRNEI suppose it's a question of both. I mean, on the one hand, you have these very strict rules and the Hungarian government insists they're simply applying the rules as they are and they won't allow migrants to travel on these trains. But as you can imagine, if you are a Syrian or an Afghan person who, perhaps, sold everything you owned and traveled through quite trying circumstances to reach Europe, you're not really going to take no for an answer.
BYRNEYou're going to seek other ways and means of getting to Germany, for instance, if that's your desired destination. And that's where these traffickers step in. Many of the migrants I spoke to at the station said that if the train station was not going to be open to them, if they couldn't get on these trains to Germany, they would try and seek out what they called "mafia" to take them in covert means. So, you know, this problem of human trafficking is not new.
BYRNEHuman traffickers have been operating in the region for some time, but I think now with this unprecedented migrant crisis -- and there were 50,000 migrants entering Hungary last month alone, they've reached a newfound prominence and it's certainly an end to this one.
KEITHAnd they have whole lot more business, I guess. Andrew Byrne, thank you so much. Andrew Byrne is a reporter in Budapest at the moment with The Financial Times. Coming up, more of our conversation about the migrant crisis in Europe and also we'll take your calls here on "The Diane Rehm Show."
KEITHWelcome back. I'm Tamara Keith, sitting in for Diane Rehm. And we are talking about the migrant crisis in Europe, and we want to take your calls and your questions. The number to call is 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or join us on Facebook or Twitter. Our handle is @drshow. And here in the studio with us is Franc Burwell of the Atlantic Council and Demetrios Papademetriou with the Migration Policy Institute Europe.
KEITHAnd Demetri, we just listened to an on-the-ground report about what's been happening there. I don't even know exactly where to start. This has obviously hit a crisis point, but it's been building.
MR. DEMETRIOS PAPADEMETRIOUYes, it has been, and it has actually gone beyond just the crisis. I'm fairly convinced by now that this is a far more important, almost existential, for the EU and the systems of states and the commission and the institutions that they have created over the last 50 or 65 years or whatever, much more so, for instance, than the crisis over the euro because this goes fundamentally at the heart of what societies are made. It is fundamentally going to the issue of rules, who qualifies, who doesn't.
MR. DEMETRIOS PAPADEMETRIOUIt goes to question -- and again, things that are signal achievements of the European Union, which is the Schengen Accord, the elimination of internal border. But we forget that the grand bargain there between - for eliminating the internal border is to harden external borders. And what we're seeing as a result of this crisis is the vanishing of at least the Mediterranean external borders of Europe right in front of our eyes. So this is really as fundamental an issue because the public is losing trust in their own institutions, their own governments but, far more broadly, the European commissions and the institutions, as they call them.
KEITHFran, what are your thoughts on what this means for the European Union?
MS. FRANCES BURWELLWell, I agree with what Demetrios just said. I do think that this is far more than an immigration crisis. This is an integration crisis. Even if the flow stopped right now, which is not going to happen, we would have a very serious issue in Europe in terms of the integration of an increasingly diverse population. Europe has been diversifying for quite some time. Anyone who goes to a major European city is aware of the very different ethnic groups that have arrived in Europe over the years.
MS. FRANCES BURWELLBut this is a whole new level. They have already this year gone well over a doubling of the same January to July period in terms of who has arrived, 340,000 so far this year, 120-something-thousand during the same period last year.
KEITHPeriod last year.
BURWELLSo -- and there's no sign that it's going to stop. The only thing, I think, that European leaders can hope for is that some of the traveling will stop as the winter closes in. So they now have to deal with how to make societies that are more diverse feel that that diversity is legitimate. As Demetrios said, this really does bring in a question of legitimacy and a question of how Europe will cope with this. And we're seeing some very noise arguments being played out in public between the Germans and others about burden-sharing.
BURWELLThis is one of the big consequences -- is we have countries with different attitudes towards immigration, different attitudes towards refugees because of their histories. And now they have -- and different financial situations.
BURWELLI think, you know, Greece is the primary recipient, but everybody acknowledges that Greece does not have the...
KEITHThey're not equipped. They're just...
BURWELLThey're not equipped to do this, no.
KEITHI mean, they're struggling with their own situation right now.
BURWELLThat's right, that's right.
PAPADEMETRIOUYes, this is an excellent point, and I think for an American understand, who have to understand the meaning of integration in Europe. Here we bring the refugees, after they have been fully vetted, et cetera, et cetera. We give them a couple of dollars, literally, and then we try to place them in the labor market, or I should say they try to find a place for themselves in the labor market.
PAPADEMETRIOUThat's not how things work in much of Europe. These are organized societies. Employers expect to hire people who are already trained. There is a system for actually getting mentorships and apprenticeships and things like that, all of which take time, which is fine if you were getting 10, the other point that Fran mentioned, 10,000 or 20,000 per year. But those...
KEITHYou're getting hundreds of thousands.
PAPADEMETRIOUHundreds of thousands. So what will happen next, and in the calculation that the European Union and member states must make about the costs of this, the financial costs of this, I would have imagined that by now Europe would be thinking about approaches beyond the kinds of things that they are doing. In other words, they are doing a great job of saying, you know, come in, we'll protect you, we'll try to treat you right. You make it to the desired destination, okay.
PAPADEMETRIOUBut we are doing nothing about all of these other places from which these people come or the places through which they get here. I know that's difficult, and it's very expensive, but when you put all these numbers together about the cost for integration, et cetera, et cetera, we ought to be thinking much more strategically about these issues.
KEITHWell, and I think that it's not just about jobs or money. There's also sort of the societal fabric, and Europe has had sort of a mixed record of welcoming people from outside. Fran.
BURWELLRight. Just a couple of points. I would say that in April and June, the EU, through various institutions, did decide that it would undertake a much more assertive role in trying to get some of the origin countries to keep people there, to restrain the flows. Unfortunately, one of the countries they wanted to deal with was Libya, which now has either no government or two governments or however you want. So who do you talk to? And another one is Syria, and there's no sign of Syria abating.
BURWELLWe also have Iraq and Afghanistan, Afghan refugees showing up. And so it's going to be extremely difficult to work with these countries to stop the flow of refugees. I would also say on -- in terms of European societies, here in the United States, we tell ourselves we're an immigration country.
KEITHWe're a country of immigrants. I don't know how many times we tell ourselves that.
BURWELLExactly, and no matter what the actual realities were of how well the Irish were received at first, you know, we're all from someplace else except the Native Americans. In Europe, that is not what they tell themselves about themselves, and so there has been a real uptick in kind of right-wing politics particularly but among those who are, shall we say, discouraged by their governments and don't feel -- and feel alienated from the political system. This crisis is only feeding the flames of that particular fire and is -- it's fodder for governments, and I would put the Hungarian government in this category, who seek to use anti-immigrant feeling to gain more support among their populace.
KEITHI want to read an email that we got from Judy in New York City. She says, the tragedy across the Middle East has turned into a human crisis, but many countries simply cannot accept people for true and good reasons, financial, the infrastructure to house and care for migrants. And she says, her question is whether the EU has a cap number in mind because she says there's no indication the exodus is abating. And then what?
BURWELLI don't know you would enforce a cap number. I have not heard of a cap number being talked about, but how -- how would you stop these people from coming? The EU is now, and the Italian government did this relatively effectively before, sending ships out and retrieving people who are dying. Do you turn them away? They found 50 people asphyxiated in the hull of a ship the other day. So it's not just people like this tragic event that happened on the highway in the truck with the 71 people who died.
BURWELLI would say also that at least in some countries in Europe, and Germany is a leader in this, there is a real feeling that because of the experience of the second world war that Europe should be a place for refugees, that refugees should not be turned away. Now that is not shared by all the countries, but at least in the ethos of the European Union, I think that that has helped.
KEITHI Want to turn to the phone now, and on the line we have, from Brussels, David O'Sullivan. He's the EU ambassador to the U.S. Welcome David.
MR. DAVID O'SULLIVANHi Diane, thank you very much for having me on the show.
KEITHI'm actually not Diane, a great disappointment to our listeners. I'm Tamara Keith from NPR.
O'SULLIVANOh, excuse me.
KEITHI'm filling in for Diane. She's out for a voice treatment. But thank you so much for being on "The Diane Rehm Show."
O'SULLIVANOkay, thank you.
KEITHAre you getting any sense that European Union leaders are ready to jump into action on this, or are they already?
O'SULLIVANNo, I think we have already been extremely active. I mean, firstly I'd like to pick up on what Fran just said.
O'SULLIVANYou know, the first thing here is that this is a massive humanitarian tragedy. It started in the Mediterranean, where we have now seen enormous generosity, both at sea and on land in Italy and Greece with people welcoming into their homes and their official buildings, schools and makeshift shelters for all the people landing in extremely difficult circumstances and trying to minimize the loss of life of people being sent to sea in unshipworthy vessels.
O'SULLIVANEqually the tragedy of people suffocating in vehicles on land, and we have really seen a lot of outpouring of humanitarian responses. You saw in Germany on Saturday at all the football matches people holding up signs saying welcome refugees. So I think one point I would send is that there is a huge sense in Europe of responsibility towards these refugees. We know they are coming from situations of extreme difficulty.
O'SULLIVANIt is politically difficult. It is as politically contentious in Europe as, frankly, the debate about immigration sometimes is in the United States, and there are differing views. But the commission is extremely active. There is a fact-finding mission that's going on now in Greece, in Austria, in Germany. President Juncker will make a major speech on this on the 9th of September, and there will be a special meeting of ministers concerned with immigration on the 14th, and I'm quite sure the commission will come forward with further proposals as to how we can address this both respecting our international obligations, avoiding dealing with the humanitarian aspect but also looking forward to the medium term.
O'SULLIVANWe are a continent which actually needs immigrants, and we have to find a way of helping legal migration take place in much healthier and safer conditions than what is happening now.
KEITHAnd it should be pointed out that many of these refugees are, in fact, highly skilled people coming from desperate situations.
O'SULLIVANAbsolutely, and in one small way, not that one would ever wish that this crisis was happening in the way in which it is happening, this also does represent an opportunity, both for the people concerned and for the European economy in the medium term. But I emphasize the first thing is to try and get a control on the situation, make sure that people are being treated correctly, that we are fully respecting our international obligations for asylum seekers and the conditions under which they have to be received but also making sure that the countries who are in the front line here, Italy, Greece in the Mediterranean, Hungary, Austria through the Western Balkans stream, are not left alone to deal with this.
O'SULLIVANThis is a pan-European problem. We need solidarity from all European countries, financial assistance but also a willingness from other European countries to help take some of these refugees so that the full burden does not fall on those who are in the front line.
KEITHI'm Tamara Keith of NPR, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Ambassador, is there emergency funding now to sort of help with that? Are there -- are things like that happening?
O'SULLIVANYes indeed. We have some 3 billion euros for an asylum and migration fund, which is being used to provide assistance to the frontline states to help them cope better with these sudden influxes because I heard you say earlier that someone had commented that there is an immediate short-term problem of logistics, of physical capacity to try and deal with this unprecedented increase in the numbers. And the commission is actively working with member-states to see how we can provide them with support and assistance to cope with the sudden influx, which we've witnessed in recent weeks.
O'SULLIVANBut also I emphasize we need to work in the medium to address this problem because this is not -- this is not a problem that's going to go away quickly. As we know, the situations which are at the origin of this, whether it's the conflict in Syria, whether it's the breakdown in countries like Eretria or Somalia, the breakdown of law and order in Libya, we will work hard to try and fix these political problems, but there isn't going to be a quick fix. So we're going to have to live with this problem probably for many years to come.
KEITHIn terms of Europe and the sort of internal politics, the principle of the European Union, of free flow within borders, do you agree that that could be threatened by this if people lose faith or if some countries handle it differently than other countries?
O'SULLIVANWell, I think we should -- we should not confuse the two things. There is freedom of movement for European citizens within the European Union, which is a legal right. Refugees and asylum seekers do not have such a legal entitlement until such time as they are actually officially classified as legally resident asylum seekers or refugees. So these are two separate issues. But I do agree with you that the -- this issue is putting some stresses and strains on a sense of solidarity across the European Union, and this is where political leadership is needed.
O'SULLIVANI think Chancellor Merkel has been extremely outspoken. Other European leaders, President Juncker, the president of the commission, I think have said that this is -- has to be viewed as a Europe-wide problem, and the countries who are in the front line cannot be left to deal with this on their own.
KEITHIs there anything that the U.S. or other countries outside of Europe should be doing?
O'SULLIVANWell, I think we work very closely with the United States in trying to address the root issues which are giving rise to this massive refugee problem. Never forget that Syria, the conflict in Syria, is actually the largest humanitarian crisis the world has seen in living memory. And while we in Europe have some problems with the numbers of migrants, neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, are bearing the brunt and seeing much, much bigger numbers. And by the way, the European Union is one of the biggest donors of humanitarian aid directly to those countries to help them cope with even bigger influxes of migrants.
O'SULLIVANSo we do need to try and find political solutions to what is happening in Syria. We need to try and establish a functioning government in Libya. As you know, the European Union is also putting together a naval force to try to address the issue of the smugglers, who are the people who exploit the misery of these refugees and putting them out to sea in unseaworthy vessels, and I know that the United States has promised to be very cooperative in helping us also gain the necessary international recognition at the United Nations for what that naval force will need to do.
O'SULLIVANSo we're very happy with the excellent cooperation we have with the United States, and I think we see very much eye-to-eye on many of these conflicts, which are at the origin of this refugee crisis.
KEITHAmbassador O'Sullivan, thank you very much for joining us. He joined us by phone from Brussels, David O'Sullivan, the EU ambassador to the U.S. Coming up, your calls and questions for our panel. Please stay tuned.
KEITHWelcome back. I'm Tamara Keith of NPR, sitting in for Diane Rehm. And just before we went to break, we heard from David O'Sullivan, the EU ambassador to the United States, talking about the crisis of migrants and refugees in Europe. And I want to turn to our guests in the studio now and just get their reaction to what he was saying. Frances Burwell is with the Atlantic Council. Fran?
BURWELLSo I think Ambassador O'Sullivan did as most ambassadors would do, present a very cogent and positive, forward-looking review of what the EU is doing. And I think that there is a lot that the EU is doing to try and attempt to stem the flow of asylum seekers and of these people who are showing up. But this is a real crisis for Europe, and I am struck by the fact that the crisis meeting will be held in two weeks, whereas during the Greek crisis, we tended to see European leaders meet almost at the drop of a hat, at an amazingly speedy rate, when they needed to do this.
BURWELLThe EU does make decisions when confronted with a crisis, but it often requires a crisis in order to make that decision. And so I am a little concerned that this is going on too long and that we will see more anti-immigrant feeling arise, particularly in certain countries, and more discussions, as Ambassador O'Sullivan pointed out, about burden-sharing between the different countries.
BURWELLHe mentioned Angela Merkel, and she has taken a leading role, and she has spoken out in ways that one does not normally expect of Chancellor Merkel, who is a very conservative, little C, politician, very cautious in her statements, and she has been way ahead of many of her public. And we need to see more of that by more European leaders and not just those who are part of the European institutions but by more national leaders, and we're not seeing it very often.
KEITHI want to turn to the email real quick, if that's all right, and Mike Keller -- Mike in Keller, Texas, writes, can someone explain the difference between migrants and refugees. I also, though, want to turn to the phones because we have a call related to that topic. Sinesha (PH) from Dallas, Texas, is that how you pronounce your name?
SINESHAYeah, Sinesha, that's correct.
KEITHSinesha. What's your question or comment.
SINESHAWell, this is really a personal issue as far as I'm concerned. I was born and raised in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and I refuged during the conflict in the '90s. Migrants and refugees are two different things, and it's rather upsetting when I hear all the authorities or experts, so to say, that are using the term migrants when as a matter of fact, these people are actually refugees. I would just like to say that, you know, I would love for somebody to actually go and see the conditions or try to feel what these people are going through in order to refuge from a war-disturbed into another one that's peaceful.
SINESHAAnd U.N. definition clearly spells out that a refugee is, as a matter of fact, a person that's refuging or leaving the war-disturbed area in order to obtain a better life elsewhere, usually in a foreign country.
KEITHI really appreciate your call, and Demetrios Papademetriou with the Migration Policy Institute of Europe, what are your thoughts on this? I imagine you have a lot of thoughts on this.
PAPADEMETRIOUYes, A few. Certainly these are mixed flows. Every flow is a mixed flow, and it includes people who would likely qualify for refugee status, which is at the end of a determination process, and an awful lot of people whom in Europe they call economic migrants, and in the United States, we have other names, unauthorized, undocumented, illegal, et cetera, et cetera.
PAPADEMETRIOUAt this state, at this point in time, most people estimate that as many as 40-plus percent of the total flow are economic migrants. This is something that needs to be handled. This is the issue, one of many issues that the European member states but also the commission are not really doing as many things as they ought to be doing in order to separate the one class of people from the other class of people.
PAPADEMETRIOUAnd refugees, we all know the definition not only in the universally -- the U.N. Convention on Refugees but also the European Social and Human Rights Convention, which goes beyond the convention, those people will need to be protected, no doubt about it. But you have to make some decisions. You have to adjudicate claim. You have to separate the groups. And those people who are economic migrants, yes they are there to try to create better conditions for themselves, et cetera, et cetera, and their families.
PAPADEMETRIOUThose people don't belong there, particularly during a time of crisis, because you have to be able to persuade your public that this extraordinary grant of protecting people is not being taken advantage of. So this is a difficult issue. It must be handled. They are not handling it.
KEITHWhat word should we be using right now, in this conversation?
PAPADEMETRIOUAsylum seekers or mixed flows.
KEITHGreg in Wells, Maine, welcome to the program.
GREGWell, thank you for taking my call. You know, I happen to be a Europhile, and I love the EU, but the EU just got way too big, and that's part of the problem. You have 20-, 25-plus countries trying to come to a consensus, which is extremely difficult. And then the other thing, too, is that the people that are leaving and departing are just the kind of people that the country needs to get them back on their feet.
GREGAnd the U.S. has lots of blame on this situation, with all the nation-building that they've done in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Libya. So it's -- the U.S. was a lot of the cause of the problem.
KEITHGreg, thank you, thank you very much for your call. We appreciate it. Do you guys have an answer to that?
BURWELLWell, I think that the EU made a strategic decision. This is on the size of the EU and the number of countries. They made a strategic decision after the end of the Cold War that the countries that had come out from communism and behind the Iron Curtain would be better off within the EU, and they have been a major transformational force for these countries. That said, there are two issues, and I would say that before every enlargement of the EU, those of us who follow the EU are always worried that they'll be unable to make decisions, and they somehow seem to make as many decisions as they made before.
BURWELLBut this particular issue, first off, if you can imagine a situation where we would bring together the governors of the concerned states when looking -- you know, Texas, California, Arizona, et cetera, and then some of the northern states that might be recipients of migrant flows, and put them in a room and asked them to make a decision about how to handle these flows, you can imagine how difficult it would be for them, with no central authority, no federal government. And that's essentially the situation that the EU finds itself in.
BURWELLI also do think that we have a little bit of a cultural issue between some of the new countries, who after the second world war did not go through the same historical learning process, if you will, and therefore may not share some of the attitudes towards refugees and that they should be helped. And in -- even in Germany itself, you can see this, where you've seen protests in what was former East Germany. And most of the protests have taken part there. And in the western part of Germany, you have a very different, a very protective attitude towards those who are seen as genuine refugees.
BURWELLIt's not a hard-and-fast geographical division, but most of the protests we have seen have been, and violent demonstrations have been, in the old eastern Lander.
KEITHWe have some questions coming in over email about the potential U.S. role in this. An email from Libby in North Carolina, she asks, what is the United States doing to help these unfortunate people? Why aren't we loading jumbo jets in Budapest every day and bringing some listeners here? Also Kevin in Hagerstown says, please tell the listeners how many of these migrants trying to enter Europe have been brought to America. He says he's heard widely varying figures but nothing definitive. Please enlighten us, he says.
PAPADEMETRIOUWell, on the issue of Syrian refugees, which is presumably what it is that these folks are thinking about.
KEITHAre thinking about, yeah.
PAPADEMETRIOUWe have been taking barely a trickle of refugees from Syria. And that has everything to do with the way -- the protocols that we have that try to make sure that we don't bring in terrorists. So it takes a long time for us to bring somebody from over there over here. The way that we bring refugees into the United States, we resettle them, but all of the vetting, all of the preparation, et cetera, et cetera, has happened at refugee camps.
PAPADEMETRIOUSo this is not an easy thing for us to say we'll take 15,000 tomorrow. And there is something else that is at play here. The United States may, you know, have some role in all of this, and we're trying to change policy with regard to Syria, et cetera, et cetera, but by and large we're in a position where we feel that all crises, humanitarian or migration crises, are regional affairs.
PAPADEMETRIOUThis is Europe's problem. When we had our crisis last year with unaccompanied minors...
KEITHAlong the U.S.-Mexico border.
PAPADEMETRIOUAlong the U.S.-Mexico border or other kinds of things.
KEITHComing from Central America, yeah.
PAPADEMETRIOUBoats came here 20-some years ago directly from China and what have you. You know, the Europeans didn't say can we help, nor did we ask for their help. The United States will help, I'm convinced, if the Europeans show resolve, a plan, strategic plan, that actually over time reduces the numbers of people who are leaving the areas around Syria. And if I can add one more thing, this isn't about trying to sort of create a government in Libya or solve Syria. This is not going to happen. This...
KEITHThat doesn't seem like something that's going to be solved overnight.
KEITHOr anytime soon.
PAPADEMETRIOUSo we ought to put much more effort into helping refugees in what we call the first asylum countries. Almost 90 percent of all Syrians are found in three places, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. We are taking -- let's say by the end of the year, if these numbers keep doubling, we may take as many as whatever, 700,000 Syrians. So we ought to put an awful lot more eggs in that basket, create opportunities for people to actually see -- get education for their children, create some training programs, have European employers come in and begin to say okay, you know, we need car mechanics.
PAPADEMETRIOUYou're a car mechanic. Here's a course for three months. Then we're going to resettle them. And we have to change the calculus of the individual refugee or the household of refugees so that say we'll stay here a little longer.
KEITHI'm Tamara Keith. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Over email, we have something of a devil's advocate question that I want to toss to Fran first. Kevin writes, how is the fence Hungary has built different from the wall between the U.S. and Mexico? Though I don't know that there actually is a wall. And why should hard-working taxpayers have to finance migrants?
BURWELLI'm not sure that there is a huge amount of difference, except that in Europe, there is much more of an open borders. But the Serbian-Hungarian border is actually the border of the EU and of what's called Schengen area, which is the area of free movement of people that Ambassador O'Sullivan described. So it was seen as contrary not to law but to the way Europeans approach these issues, if I can put it that way.
KEITHSo to spirit rather than to law.
PAPADEMETRIOUAnd there are other -- really other border walls that have gone up. Three years ago, Greece created a wall between Greece and Turkey in Thrace. It worked so well that everybody, the whole traffic was rerouted to the Aegean. Then the Bulgarians and many other Europeans who objected to that, they extended that wall in order to protect themselves. And of course the Israelis have massive walls, long walls, you know, in their borders.
PAPADEMETRIOUSo whether it makes sense or not how efficient, how effective, et cetera, et cetera, the fact is that people do do those things.
PAPADEMETRIOUI would also point out that Serbia is seen as -- it is not a candidate country to join the EU. And so this is like say, okay, we're putting up a wall against those who are soon to join our family. And so that was not good politics, and we're right at a key moment with the Serbs, with the Serbian government, in trying to convince them that they should undertake some very difficult reforms in order to become a member of the EU. And then what do you do? You put up a wall that keeps all these refugees and migrants in Serbia. It's -- the politics of it in terms of internal, EU politics is difficult.
KEITHInternal European -- I want to go back to the phones, and Edit in Washington, D.C., welcome.
EDITYes, thank you for taking my call.
KEITHYeah, I appreciate you calling in. So you just recently returned from a volunteer trip to Hungary. Is that right?
EDITWell so no, I am Hungarian. My name is Editfrenio (PH), and I'm doing a PhD at Georgetown University Law Center on Migration, and I spend my summers in Hungary. So I just recently returned just yesterday, and I spent much of my summer volunteering, in Budapest in particular, hands-on with the refugees and migrants at -- mainly at our train stations, which have turned into makeshift refugee camps, essentially.
KEITHAnd what are you hearing from people?
EDITSo the reason I called is that it's very difficult. It seems that the country in many ways is split into two parts. You know, one side, as was mentioned, is sort of following, but there is a great deal of lack of information and an inhospitable attitude towards these migrants because government narrative has been, since early spring that we are going to be, you know, sort of under siege by a flow of economic migrants who are coming here for predominately economic and labor market reasons.
EDITTherefore when people did start arriving in large numbers, and by now we're talking about over 2,000 people crossing our border into Hungary each day...
KEITHEvery day, wow.
EDITEvery day, and these refugees -- so when I'm out there working with them, the demographics are as following. The majority are Syrians. The overwhelming majority are Syrians. The second-largest group are Afghanis. Then there are Iraqis and sort of the fourth-largest group would be Pakistanis and Bangladeshis mixed and then a few Africans, and everybody else is behind these large groups.
EDITSo if we're just starting with the Syrians, Afghanis and Iraqis, clearly it's a situation of people who would qualify for some kind of protective status, whether refugee under the convention or other sort of temporary protective statuses. But by the time these people started arriving in such large numbers, the Hungarian public believes, according to the propaganda, that we're talking about economic migrants who are coming here to take our jobs. This is a very understandable and common narrative. We are very familiar with this in the United States, as well.
EDITThe fence, as many of the, you know, callers and other experts mentioned, is also not an unusual phenomenon, unfortunately.
KEITHEdit, I hate to interrupt you, but we are running out of time in this show, and we so appreciate your call and what you're contributed, but we are -- the clock is winding down. I want to thank our guests, Frances Burwell from the Atlantic Council, and Demetrios Papademetriou from the Migration Policy Institute of Europe. I'm Tamara -- Fran, you want to say something very quickly?
KEITHOkay. I'm Tamara Keith from NPR News, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you so very much for listening.
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