More than one million refugees and migrants entered Europe in 2015, and as wars and instability look set to carry on for some time, more will seek better lives in the coming year. The mass migration is the largest since World War II and has already caused political repercussions across Europe, with more set to continue in 2016.
While numbers for next year are impossible to predict, Reuters reported: “The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR is planning for arrivals to continue at a similar rate in 2016.”
In 2015, more than half the arrivals were Syrian, while Afghans made up around 20 percent and Iraqis 7 percent. Another 3,600 people died or went missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
“The European migration flow is nevertheless far more manageable than in the Middle East, where roughly 2.2 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey alone,” the Guardian reported. “In Lebanon, 1.1 million Syrians form about one-fifth of the country’s total population, while Jordan’s 633,000 registered Syrian refugees make up around a tenth of the total.”
While European leaders are calling for all EU nations to pitch on and resettle a certain number of refugees, various administrations are rejecting the call.
As more refugees seek solace in Europe in 2016, more of the same can be expected.
“In recent years, to combat the supposed threat of ‘illegal immigration’ — a specter that elicits as much fear in European politics as it does in the United States — Europeans have invested heavily in border defenses. Frontiers that only a few years ago were lightly patrolled, such as the Greek and Bulgarian borders with Turkey, are now equipped with sophisticated fences and a heavy police presence,” Daniel Trilling wrote in the Nation.
Xenophobia has also manifested into violence on a few occasions, one notably being rock hurling against a group of Iraqi refugees arriving to Finland. There has also been negative rhetoric from specific European leaders. One example is Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban who told a group of journalists in September that “I think we have a right to decide that we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country.”
Yet in the face of xenophobia and anti-refugee rhetoric, a number of positive stories have also emerged. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that her country would resettle 800,000 refugees. This trend is likely to continue in countries like Germany and Sweden in 2016, largely because their declining population levels means there is a need for immigrants.
“For now, we can make better use of migrants who are already here, matching their skills better to labor market needs,” Jean-Christophe Dumont, an expert on migration at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, told Reuters. “In the longer term, it will not only be about matching skills, it will also be about numbers.”