What kind of impact did Merkel’s « Wir schaffen das » (we can make it) in Belgium ?
The first reactions came from the citizens, not the politicians or the government. Led by Theo Francken, it was especially criticized for its lack of reaction during the events in Parc Maximilien. They later took actions, opening 18.000 places. The Foreign Office and the CGRA (charged of examining the demands) also took actions. From to 2015 to 2016, around 47.500 asylum seekers have been welcomed in Belgium.
Let’s see this evolution in more details.
In Belgium, the Secretary of State Theo Francken tried to discourage Iraqis candidates to come in Belgium. Amongst others attempts, the status of refugee became temporary (possibility of renewing after 5 years). According to political scientist Carl Devos, his actions are part of his political strategy. By positioning himself (and his political party) against Merkel, he forces the CD&V (an opposing Belgian party) to take a position, seeing as they are supporting Merkel’s party, the CDU, However, their pro-migrants’ decisions are unpopular
Influence of the attacks
Before the attacks in Paris, the public opinion was in favour of welcoming migrants. However, people started seeing migration as a threat to society afterwards, which didn’t help refugees to integrate. Europe is in crisis and blaming the migrants for it. Since the attacks, everything about integration is discussed.
Europe : from solidarity to closing borders
Summer 2015, the migrant crisis is already in full swing. A young Palestinian student accosts Merkel, saying she’s being sent back with her family to Lebanon. Merkel answers that they can’t accept everyone, provoking a wave of shocked reactions from citizens all around the world.
A month later appears “Wir Schaffen das”. Merkel announces that Germany will accept every asylum seekers. Little Aylan’s death a few days later makes her message more popular, proving her right.
But Merkel’s decision doesn’t please everyone. According to Hungarian minister Viktor Orban, refugees are a German problem. He explains that migrants have been passing through Hungary for years, trying to go to the north of Europe. So much that he decides to create a fence on his Serbian border, extending it later to Croatia and Slovenia. He claims that he only controls his border and applies the rules of Schengen (*). According to him, refugees want to go to Germany. But only 13 days later, Germany starts controlling its borders once again…
In September, it’s voted that each European country must welcome 160 000 refugees, including 60 000 the first year. Only 4 countries didn’t agree : Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.
In November, the attacks in Paris, then in Brussels and the assaults in Cologne make people associate refugees to a threat, even though some keep trying to explain there’s no link between refugees and Daesh.
When Germany decided, end September, to control its borders once again, other countries followed. Schengen is in danger, and Greece is pressurized to create “hot spots” to welcome migrants, or be removed from this accord.
The 18th of march, the accord between Europe and Turkey is finally signed. Turkey accepts to keep migrant, preventing them to cross the sea, but also to take in those from Greece. For each refugee sent back in Turkey, Europe must take one. Three billion euros are given to help the country, and negotiations to accept them in the EU start again. In exchange, Turkey has to improve its anti-terrorists’ laws. This decision is largely criticized. Est-Europeans countries such as Slovenia close their borders, and less migrants come in Greece, making the utility of this accord unclear.
After the missed overthrow of President Erdogan in Turkey, relations between Europe and Ankara aren’t the same. None of the parties have respected their engagement, except for the welcoming of migrants, which Erdogan is menacing to abandon. If he does, will the migrants flow come back in Greece ?
by Marie Vanloocke
“Le Soir Plus” 31/08/2016