Berlin has said it expects to receive a record 800,000 asylum seekers this year, more than the entire EU combined in 2014, laying bare the scale of the biggest refugee crisis to face the continent since the second world war.
Whether you consider this “good news” depends on what you are comparing it to. Most of all, we would prefer a situation where not so many people wanted asylum. In the meantime, my fear is that this immigration will not proceed in an orderly manner, and the backlash against immigration will grow stronger yet. I do not expect 2017 to resemble 2015; “unorthodox arrivals” to Europe were three times higher this July than last and at some point that process will be stopped, no matter what our moral judgment of the situation.
Interior minister Thomas de Maizière warned that the Schengen zone, which allows passport-free travel across much of mainland Europe, could not be maintained unless EU states agreed to share asylum seekers.
The Schengen agreement of course has been the best achievement of immigration policy in a long time. But can the European Union agree on a coherent asylum policy, and furthermore one which removes some of the relative burden from Germany and the UK? Keeping relatively free immigration does in fact require a good deal of regulation, most of all in Europe, but those same governments are not always good at regulating.
Here is some bad polling news from Sweden. Trouble is afoot in other corners too:
Authorities in Hungary said this week they would dispatch thousands of “border hunters” to arrest migrants entering the country from Serbia.
The forces, drawn from the Hungary’s police, will patrol the 175km long border with Serbia, where soldiers and labourers are building a 4m high razor-wire fence to keep out an estimated 300,000 migrants expected to arrive in the country this year.
I think of these developments as a good illustration of why an attempt at truly, fully open borders probably would, due to backlash, result in a lower level of immigration than the pro-immigration, immigration-increasing, low-skilled immigration increasing policies I favor. But the idea of maximizing subject to a backlash constraint is unpopular in libertarian circles, let me tell you, including at GMU lunch table. Nonetheless we are learning, I am sorry to say, that the backlash constraint is more binding than many of us had thought.
This all remains an under-reported story in many American newspapers, Even with Donald Trump still leading in the polls, it is not understood what a prominent role images of Calais are playing in British national debate. I don’t see all this as leading to anything good.