The current situation in the Mediterranean Sea, where huge numbers of refugees and labor migrants were drowning in the last weeks puts a lot of public pressure on the EU. Some time ago, the EU operations in that area were scaled back, from ‘Mare Nostrum’ to ‘Triton’. Simultaneously, troubled societies and failing states created an atmosphere that triggered people in ever more countries to leave. Organized criminal gangs took advantage of this, trading unsecure ways of transport to Europe against secure cash. The EU was taken by surprise, suprisingly. There are policy deficits, not enough money earmarked for the problem, and distribution problems between governments. Now, emergency summit meetings try to cope with the pictures from people drowning in the sea.
The difficult question is now: Should the EU take as many refugees as possible, under the motto “saving human lives no matter what”? Or should it consider the likely consequences, like opening the gates a bit more would encourage many more people to come? Why are most EU countries very hesitant to accept refugees, while a few EU member states (Italy, Germany, Sweden, Malta, Austria) take almost all of them? Would camps for refugees in Northern Africa be a good idea, for screening their expected asylum applications already there? Is there a special responsibility for Europe to address this question, or just geographical contingency?