As Europe comes increasingly under siege by asylum-seekers, refugees, economic migrants, jihadists, and others, it inevitably will put up walls, create military forces, and in other ways hunker down.
One key development in this process is being revealed today by Franco Frattini, the European Union's justice commissioner. Called the European Maritime Border Guard Corps, it will be a EU-wide funded and staffed force in the Mediterranean Sea to hold back the flow of Africans. If EU governments accept Frattini's plan, the corps could start work in early 2006. Its two main missions will be to detect boats leaving African ports via satellites and rescue ships in distress. Immigrants picked up at sea will be transported to European ports, processed in a fast-track asylum procedure, and those rejected summarily deported. Frattini sees in this maritime force a step toward creating a European Land Border Guard Corps.
Comment: I predicted in 2001 that the military response by the Australian authorities to illegal immigration was "the start of a trend." Expect to see much, much more along these lines as the West protects its patrimony. (November 27, 2005)
June 11, 2006 update: For an apocalyptic vision of Europe in a decade, listen to the UK's Rear Admiral Chris Parry. Warning that Europe could be "like the 5th-century Roman empire facing the Goths and the Vandals,"
He pointed to the wave of mass migration that disaster in the Third World could unleash. "The diaspora issue is one of my biggest current concerns," he said. "Globalisation makes assimilation seem redundant and old-fashioned ... (the process) acts as a sort of reverse colonisation, where groups of people are self-contained, going back and forth between their countries, exploiting sophisticated networks and using instant communication on phones and the internet." The direct effects of Third World instability would soon lick at the edges of the Western world as pirate gangs mounted smash-and-grab raids on holidaymakers. "At some time in the next 10 years it may not be safe to sail a yacht between Gibraltar and Malta."
Comment: It's interesting to recall that another British leader, Enoch Powell, in 1968 gave his famous "Rivers of Blood" speech, in which he predicted that immigration to the United Kingdom would lead to problems: "As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see 'the River Tiber foaming with much blood'." This speech aborted Powell's political career. Today, far more detailed scenarios raise hardly a murmur.
Aug. 14, 2006 update: When writing the above about Europe inevitably putting up walls, I was thinking of the external kind, such as those that have gone up surrounding Ceuta and Melilla, and not internal walls between parts of a city. But at least one of the latter now exists, in the fabled Italian city of Padua, blocking the 273 apartments spread out over six blocks of the Serenissima development project, with its many immigrants, from the rest of the city, population 210,000.
Six, seven or eight immigrants shared each space and slept in shifts to reduce the rent even further. Unable to work legally, and with little money, the new arrivals hung around with nothing to do. Petty crime flourished and prostitutes and drug dealers targeted the area. Italians who couldn't afford to move out became too scared to open their doors at night. In a recent editorial,Corriere della Sera described the area as "the worst possible example of failed integration" and said it was an example of what can happen if ghettos are allowed to form. …
Matters came to a head last month, when a pitched battle raged for several hours one night between gangs of Moroccans and Nigerians wielding clubs, machetes, knives and crowbars. Tear gas was used to break up the fight and the incident shook the citizens of Padua. The city known for its artworks by Giotto, Donatello and Mantegna, and which is home to Italy's second-oldest university, where Galileo was once a professor of mathematics, had the distinction of having the most dangerous housing development in northern Italy.
Now Padua has another dubious claim to fame. A large and ugly barrier has been erected to help protect local residents from the run-down apartment blocks, largely filled with immigrants. Stretching for 84 metres, three metres high and made of thick steel panels, there is a police checkpoint at the entrance as well as CCTV cameras. The project has been welcomed by local people but is highly controversial. …
Of particular note: the mayor who constructed this wall around the so-called Padua Bronx, Flavio Zanonato, belongs to the "Democrats of the Left" (Italian: Democratici di Sinistra) party, the renamed Communist party. In contrast, the right-wing Northern League party called for the city to "raze the casbah of foreign delinquency to the ground." It will get its way, as three of the Serenissima's apartment blocks are already emptied of tenants and sealed, with current plans calling for everyone else to move out within two years.
The wall built on the outskirts of Padua to seal off Serenissima.
This little farming town on the edge of Europe, where the crosses of Greek Orthodox churches face Turkey's minarets scarcely a mile away [in the city of Edirne, DP], has become the latest battleground in the continent's war against a flood of unwanted immigrants from the strife-torn Muslim world.
The European Union's joint border patrol force, Frontex, dispatched armed international guards last week to reinforce Greek patrols around Nea Vissa, seeking to seal an eight-mile stretch of frontier that has become the main corridor for illegal entry into Europe for thousands of fortune-seeking Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistanis and North Africans. …
Most of the 160-mile Greece-Turkey border is defined by the Evros River as it winds down to the Aegean Sea, making passage difficult. But a quirk of history has placed the line a little west of the river, meaning illegal immigrants can cross the waterway over bridges on the Turkish side and sneak across the border in relative safety on dry land.
(Click here for a Google map of the area.) The numbers are daunting:
Greek authorities calculate they arrested about 45,000 illegal immigrants in the first half of the year, most of them near here, accounting for 90 percent of the illegal immigrants taken into custody in all of Western Europe. As many as 350 illegal immigrants a day were being captured in the Evros Valley farmlands around Nea Vissa, according to Maj. Athanasios Kokkalakis of the Interior Ministry. Besides those taken into custody, at least 15 percent more evade Greek authorities, he said.
Ankara has not proven cooperative; it
has refused to allow arrested immigrants to be sent back across the border, except nationals of countries with land borders with Turkey. This excludes the bulk of those taken into custody, who are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and, increasingly, North Africa. Responding to Europe's concerns, Turkish officials have noted their country is only a way station, and that they are as much a victim of the immigrant flood as Greece and the other E.U. countries.
As usual, catching the illegals is a temporary palliative:
Captured immigrants from those countries are taken to Interior Ministry detention centers for processing. Because of crowding, most are freed after a few days with an order to return home within two months. Typically, specialists said, they tear up the order and go on their way. "It is a cat-and-mouse game," said Robert Dutfchmann, 28, a German Federal Police inspector patrolling outside Nea Vissa with Frontex colleagues. from the Netherlands.
And even if the Greek-Turkish border can be closed, it hardly does any good:
nearby Bulgaria will become part of the E.U.'s unrestricted, visa-less travel space early next year. Its 200-mile border with Turkey will make it the logical spot for immigrant smugglers to try next - and perhaps the next destination for Frontex guards.
Jan. 1, 2011 update: Closing the border may not help, but the Greeks plan to do this anyway, says Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis. "Greek society has reached its limits in taking in illegal immigrants. Greece can't take it anymore. "Cooperation with the other EU states is going well. Now we plan to construct a fence to deal with illegal migration." He compared the barrier to the American one along parts of the border with Mexico.
Jan. 18, 2011 update: Another report from the Greek-Turkish border, this one in The Wall Street Journal, "Refugees Stir Greek Anger," by Marc Champion and Alkman Granitsas, reporting from the Greek border town of Orestiada:
Under AKP leadership, Ankara "has signed visa-free travel agreements with Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan, among others. Citizens of many other countries, including Iraq, can buy visas at the border." This openness "has helped unleash a flood of illegal immigrants into the European Union, border officials here said Monday. The main conduit is just outside this unassuming Greek town near Turkey's border, where fields of garlic and brush form the only dry-land border between Greece and Turkey."
That border offers a unique combination: "the Schengen area abuts another open-travel zone, the informal visa-free zone developing in the East, around Turkey." It's much safer and cheaper than going by sea. Frontex estimates that 90 percent of all detections of illegal crossings into the European Union take place in Greece. The government plans to build a fence.
It isn't clear whether the proposed border fence outside Orestiada can solve those problems. The fence would be just 12½ kilometers (about eight miles) long, following the border as it cuts across a bend in the River Evros, which otherwise forms the 200-kilometer division between northern Greece and northern Turkey.
Jan. 31, 2011 update: A further report from Orestiada in the New York Times: "Greece Tries to Stem Immigrant Flow From Turkey."
Feb. 6, 2012 update: A year later, work will finally begin at Orestiada:
Greece announced on Monday[, Feb. 6,] that it will soon begin building a 6-mile-long fence topped with razor wire on its border with Turkey to deter illegal immigrants. … Greek Public Order Minister Christos Papoutsis went to the border village of Kantanies on Monday to announce that work on the 13-foot-tall fence will start next month and is expected to be finished by September  at a cost of more than €3 million. It will stretch from Kastanies to the Greek village of Nea Vyssa, near the northeastern town of Orestiada. … Papoutsis said the fence will be coupled with a network of fixed night-vision cameras providing real-time footage to the new command center.
July 14, 2012 update: The New York Times ran an excellent series today of 14 pictures on "Greece's Porous Border, a Back Door to Europe."
July 30, 2012 update: With Syrian refuges now added to the existing mix, the broke Greek government found the money to quadruple the number of its guards at the border with Turkey, from 600 to 2,400, and to build 26 floating barriers will be placed along the Evros River.
Dec. 17, 2012 update: The Greek government has completed a €3 million, 10.5 km two-layer fence topped with barbed wire on the Turkish border at the Evros River to keep out illegal immigrants. Media reports suggest the fence has reduced crossings at Evros by 95 percent – prompting efforts to reach Greece via sea routes to the country's many islands.
June 18, 2013 update: To dissuade Syrian refugees from entering into their territory, Greeks are making them miserable, Michael Birnbaum reports for the Washington Post.
Thousands of Syrians fleeing war and misery are making their way to Europe, and many are coming through Greece, whose Mediterranean islands stretch within tantalizing reach of home. Once they get here, many wish they'd never come. Greece's economic meltdown has left little food, medicine or other aid for refugees washing up on its shores. The new arrivals are packed into detention camps, and those who stay longer hide in cramped, barren apartments, fearing anti-immigrant violence on the streets.