Why don't the EU countries stop accepting refugees?

EU camp instead of taking in refugees

Once again Germany is going ahead and taking in refugees and migrants from the Greek islands. In Germany there is a veritable competition for acceptance: SPD leader Saskia Esken called for a "high four-digit" number of refugees to be admitted, the Green parliamentary group leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt named the number 5,000. Church representatives, aid organizations, local authorities and federal states are also willing to find Germany must take in significantly more people from the destroyed Moria camp than the 1553 promised on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer from the CSU is slowing down for two reasons: He does not want to signal to migrants that they can bypass the normal route to recognition of their asylum status. And he wants a European solution to the entire migration issue. And the federal government should find this, if possible, during the current German EU Council Presidency. German solo efforts, according to his calculation, make a European solution more difficult. Mathias Middelberg, domestic policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag, told Deutsche Welle: "The impression must not be created that Germany is solving the migration issue on its own."

Germany: pretty much alone in the European house

The reactions in other European countries seem to confirm this position. The usual refusals of any refugee admission, such as Hungary and Poland, do not budge anyway. But there is also either disinterest or even open resistance from other quarters.

The Netherlands, for example, only want to take in 100 people, but want this number to be counted towards a UNHCR contingent. The bottom line is that the country would not accept a single refugee in addition. Austria shows itself to be even more negative, although the Greens, who are basically welcoming, are involved in the government. The conservative Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz expressly "does not want to follow the German path". Instead, Austria wants to provide aid on Lesbos. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg warned that if Moria were evacuated by distributing the migrants to European countries, it would soon be full again.

Many hope that the Greek islands are the gateway to Europe

Domestic politician Middelberg shares this assessment. The impression should not be created: "If you make it to the islands, the path to your dream destination in Europe is open to you."

The migration issue is still a hot topic in Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly assured that the situation of 2015, when hundreds of thousands came to Germany largely uncontrolled in a short period of time, "must not and will not repeat itself".

CDU speaks of a pilot project

It could now be that the dispute over the destroyed Moria camp will change the debate in the EU about asylum reform. Because previous appeals to admit refugees have passed almost without effect. Instead, both EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Chancellor Merkel are thinking of camps on the Greek islands. They are to be run jointly by the EU and Greece. The EU would ensure European standards. All asylum applications would also be examined there. Only those who receive asylum should be allowed to leave the islands towards the mainland. Rejected asylum seekers should be sent back. Ultimately, that is exactly what the refugee agreement negotiated with Turkey in 2016 provides.

Chancellor Merkel emphasizes that 2015 should not be repeated

"The new reception center on Lesbos can be a pilot project for a European refugee policy in practice. Rapid procedures at the external border should enable a quick decision on whether to accept or return a person", Mathias Middelberg praises the idea. It will also play a role in the draft asylum reform that von der Leyen intends to present next week.

High rejection rate

However, these ideas are far from what migrants and refugees want to hear on the Greek islands. They hope to be able to leave the island after the fire, regardless of the asylum decision. The Greek authorities believe that migrants started the fire to force them to move to the mainland. The government in Athens calls this the "Moria tactic". Several Afghans have since been arrested on charges of arson. These include two minors who were brought to the mainland for protection after the fire. Deputy Migration Minister Giorgios Koumoutsakos said after the fire: "Anyone who thinks they can travel to the mainland and then to Germany should forget about it."

Moria: The Greek authorities believe in arson by migrants

The role of the EU in the islands is not entirely new. The EU asylum authority Easo is already represented in the camps. She supports the Greek authorities in their asylum decision. The task is already daunting. According to the EU Commission, 11,000 people are waiting for an asylum decision in Lesbos alone. In 1400 protection was promised, in 900 the application was rejected in the second instance. Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP group in the European Parliament, recently spoke of a rejection rate of around 60 percent at the external borders.

According to UNHCR, almost 10,000 people have been illegally transferred from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands this year. That is significantly less than in previous years. But Turkey, which is in conflict with Greece over gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, has a powerful lever in hand with migration. Ankara could ensure that more people dare to make the illegal crossing again soon.