This past week, the European Union has been considering new legislation imposing quotas on the number of immigrants that all Union members must accept.
This is, in part, due to the massive influx of immigrants to Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain.
These countries, already in economic turmoil, are having trouble handling the immigrants that reach their shores.
They have no resources at all to provide safety nets for the thousands of immigrants whose boats sink or catch fire in transit over the Mediterranean Sea.
The quotas are meant to alleviate this problem by distributing the load across the EU.
This has drawn quite a bit of outrage from the member states, particularly Britain and France, whose populaces are already fed up with immigrants.
Both of these countries already have contentious internal battles to face concerning the future of immigration, and the governments are loathe to give their political opponents more fuel.
On the other hand, EU officials are also looking for more aggressive alternatives to stop the flood of immigrants.
The wave of immigrants has been greatly facilitated by human smugglers in Libya and their success has encouraged more to operate in the region.
Although the EU has claimed that ground troops will probably not be used to destroy human smuggling operations, the option still seems to be on the table, in addition to the question of how to solve the crisis is still an open one.
The issue is growing not only because of the increase in refugees resulting from the multiple wars in the region but also because of a greatly increasing nationalistic and anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe.
Britain, Spain, France, Italy and Greece have all had, to greater and lesser extents, increases in a sense of national identity, and a backlash against immigrants coming into the country.
These and many more countries, have pushed the EU to more precarious positions and have made them contemplate extreme measures to combat the perceived threat to national identity.
They are contemplating both the quota system to force their members to take unwanted immigrants and, though they won’t admit it, certainly has military options in North Africa on the table.
The situation is an increasingly dire one, since the wars in the North African and Middle Eastern regions aren’t slowing down and the anti-immigrant feeling in Europe is only increasing.
The economic troubles rocking the Eurozone are putting more pressure on the EU to pass something that will halt the problem. The terrible state of the Grecian economy and a possible EU exit from England are problems that desperately need to be addressed.
The solution to the problem isn’t clear, especially considering the circumstances that the refugees flee.
On one hand, the situation the refugees are fleeing from is terrible, generally war-torn and impoverished.
Additionally, there is some weight to the idea that old European colonialism is responsible for the situation.
The arbitrary borders sketched out by European hands a little less than a century ago are finally collapsing under the weight of pre-existing cultural differences and ethnic antagonization.
On the other hand, Europe is already having its own crises and has no real obligation to support hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Whatever the solution is, and no doubt it will be a complex one, it needs to happen fast.
More and more immigrants are dying each week in desperate attempts to cross the Mediterranean—an estimated 1,500 this year.
Last year, the Italian coastguard worked hard to save tens of thousands of immigrants under the program “Mare Nostrum,” (Our Sea). Under the program, the coastguard rescued capsized or wrecked boats and brought the passengers ashore.
That program was terminated last fall, and though it was nominally replaced by a European operation, its replacement is underfunded and flimsy and hasn’t attempted rescue on the level of the previous program.
The inaction of the EU concerning this crisis has resulted in several deaths, as they are still in contention over whether to accommodate European immigrants or prevent them from crossing the sea.
Without strong, decisive action from the EU, the immigrant death toll will only continue to grow.
Europe’s leaders need to take responsibility and finally make a firm decision on immigration.