The policies of the EU (and some EU governments) have encouraged migrants to attempt to enter Europe.
In the name of burden-sharing and pan-European solidarity, the EU has tried to compel Poland (and other Central & Eastern European countries) to accept some of the Middle Eastern and North African migrants and refugees who have been pouring into Europe since 2015 (2017).
The Polish, Czech, Hungarian, and other governments have resisted such pressure on the basis of national sovereignty and the right to control their borders and migration policies (2018).
Notably, Poland has accepted approximately 1.2 million Ukrainian immigrants in recent years (2019).
During the EU summit held in Brussels in late June 2018, EU leaders upheld the principle of burden-sharing but agreed to make the acceptance of resettled refugees voluntary (2018).
Europe has long been a destination for migrants and refugees from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
The current refugee crisis has its origins in the 2011 intervention removing Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the Syrian Civil War (2011 – present), the rise of ISIS, and the ensuing chaos and humanitarian disaster.
In 2008, in an attempt to stem illegal migration by sea, the Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi signed a treaty with Libya, which agreed to accept migrants intercepted and deported by Italy (2008).
However, the overthrow of Libya’s Gaddafi regime in 2011 created anarchical conditions facilitating and spurring migration (2018).
In February 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (established by the European Commission) ruled against Italy’s policy, saying that “returning migrants to Libya without examining their case exposed them to a risk of ill-treatment and amounted to a collective expulsion” (2012).
Not all the Muslims entering or seeking entry into Europe are Syrian (or Libyan) refugees. Many migrants from the greater Near East and Africa (including countries like Mali, Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan) have seized the opportunity presented by the refugee crisis to rush the EU’s frontiers (2018).
The number of refugees entering Europe in 2015 was a record-breaking 1.3 million. This accounts for approximately one in ten asylum applications since 1985 (2016).
58% of 2015 arrivals were adult men, 17% were adult women, and 25% were individuals under 18 years of age. In the case of some countries of origin (e.g. Gambia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), the migrants were almost completely male (2015).
Of the 1.3 million asylum seekers in 2015, 35% applied for asylum in Germany, 14% in Hungary, 12% in Sweden, 7% in Austria, 7% in Italy, and 6% in France (2016).
Some prominent and influential EU leaders – in particular, Germany’s Angela Merkel – adopted an extremely welcoming policy towards refugees and migrants, thereby making their countries magnets for large numbers of Middle Easterners and North Africans (2015).
CONCERNS RE: INFLUX OF MIGRANTS/REFUGEES
A number of Europe-bound migrants have perished along the way.
On average, six migrants died each day in 2018 attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe (2019).
According to the Heritage Foundation: “Almost 1,000 people have been injured or killed in terrorist attacks featuring asylum seekers or refugees since 2014. Over the past four years, 16% of Islamist plots featured asylum seekers or refugees” (2018).
On New Year’s Eve 2015, “more than 1,200 women were sexually assaulted in various German cities, including more than 600 in Cologne and about 400 in Hamburg” by “more than 2,000 [North African or Middle Eastern] men.” The information came from a leaked German police document (2016).
Government authorities and media outlets have frequently chosen not to report refugee/migrant crime for fear of stoking racism or xenophobia; many Europeans see the lack of reporting as a cover up (2018).
There have been conflicts between ethnic or religious groups with a history of tensions.
In April 2015, sub-Saharan African Muslim migrants threw overboard twelve Christian migrants from Ghana and Nigeria who subsequently drowned (2015).
In May 2016, a large group of (Sunni) Chechens attacked Iraqi Yazidis in a refugee camp in Germany - five Yazidis were hospitalized as a result (2016).
In June 2019, migrants got into a brawl with one another, and subsequently the police, in a Bosnian migrant shelter, leaving around a dozen people injured (2019).
Citizens of Poland and other Central and Eastern European nations have been injured, raped, or murdered during interactions with migrants or refugees in Western Europe.
In January 2019, an Afghan migrant repeatedly and viciously stabbed a pregnant Polish woman in a German hospital, resulting in life-threatening injuries for the mother-to-be and the death of her unborn child (2019).
Overwhelming majorities of Europeans disapprove of the EU’s handling of the refugee/migrant crisis (2018).
According to the Spring 2018 Global Attitudes Survey, the rate of disapproval in Poland and Hungary (67 and 80 percent respectively) was similar to that in the UK, France, and Germany and lower than disapproval in Greece and Sweden - 92 and 84 percent respectively (2018).
THE EU POSITION (2015 - TODAY)
In September 2015, EU leaders agreed to relocate approximately 160,000 out of the over 2 million migrants in the EU over a two-year period in hopes of easing the burden on Italy and Greece (2018).
Among its key provisions is that “all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey” and that “Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration opening from Turkey to the EU” (2016).
However, “for every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU” (2016).
Furthermore, “once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated” (2016).
The EU also pledged a total of 6 billion Euros ($6.9 billion) – in two installments – for Ankara to help the over 3 million displaced Syrians in Turkey (2016).
In the summer of 2016, the EU launched Operation Sophia to conduct anti-smuggling and rescue operations in the central Mediterranean between Italy and Libya (2016).
The head of Libya’s coast guard operations stated that “people, when they get rescued, call their friends to tell them that there are EU vessels only 20 miles from Libyan waters to save them” (2016).
The EU proposed burden-sharing reforms to the Common Asylum Policy (2016).
The aim was to remedy the “weaknesses” of the Dublin Regulation (2019 and 2016), which places an overwhelming burden on EU border states in southern and southeastern Europe and other EU nations that receive large numbers of migrants/refugees.
The centralized system devised by Brussels would distribute – using a “fairness mechanism” – the number of asylum applicants based on country’s GDP and population. Member states refusing to accept their quote of refugees would be fined a “solidarity contribution” of 250,000 Euro per application (2019).
During a key Brussels summit in late June 2018, EU leaders reached a compromise of sorts, agreeing to:
Send rescued migrants to “control centers” throughout the EU (only in countries which volunteer to host them);
Separate economic migrants from refugees;
Abandon compulsory relocations of refugees;
Strengthen the EU’s external borders;
Provide more financial aid to Turkey and Morocco;
Open processing centers in North Africa and Niger.
In September 2015, the Civic Platform government agreed to accept over 6,000 Middle Eastern refugees. However, when the Law and Justice party won the parliamentary elections in October 2015, the new Polish government reversed its predecessor’s decision (2018).
The EU has tried to coerce and intimidate Poland into accepting refugees.
In May 2017, the European Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourová (from the Czech Republic), “proposed making the distribution of EU funds in the next multi-year budget contingent on upholding fundamental European values,” a clear threat to punish Poland economically.
In June 2017, the European Commission launched “infringement procedures” against Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest for their refusal to accept Muslim refugees and Brussel’s resettlement policy, which the three Central European nations viewed as a dictate.
In December 2017, the EC sued Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic at the European Court of Justice for “non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation.”
Poland has steadfastly resisted what it sees as a threat to its national sovereignty.
In a 2018 survey, 50% of Poles said that they see immigrants as a burden on their country (2019).
As many Poles see it:
National independence and sovereignty are cherished values that generations of Poles fought and died for;
Poland is significantly poorer than Western European EU member states;
Poland already hosts many refugees and migrants (notably including over 1 MILLION immigrants from Ukraine);
Poland neither colonized the Middle East nor did it contribute to its current destabilization;
Consequently, Poland should not be required to pay the price of the open arms policies of the EU and Germany.
In May 2018, Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, declared: “Here in Poland, it is we who decide who will come to Poland and who will not…. Proposals by the European Union that impose quotas on us hit the very foundations of national sovereignty.”
The Brussels summit in late June 2018 (see above) can be seen as a victory for Poland and fellow Central European nations, but the EU nevertheless maintains its commitment to burden-sharing (on a voluntary basis for now).
EU attempts to force Poland to accept Muslim refugees/migrants were part of a larger stand-off between Brussels and Warsaw that has been ongoing since the Law and Justice (PiS) party won the Polish parliamentary election in the fall of 2015 (2018).