The collapse of the passport-free Schengen Area could be imminent, warned the leader of the European Union Tuesday, Deutsche Welle reported. The dire warning from Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, comes amid record high winter arrivals of refugees in Greece.
“We have no more than two months to get things under control,” Tusk said. He said if the 28-member union could not control its external borders, the EU would, “fail as a political project.”
Over 31,000 refugees have entered Europe by sea across the Mediterranean route since the beginning of 2016 with the majority of people coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the International Organization for Migration reported Tuesday. The number so far is 21 times greater than last year, showing that refugees escaping violent and repressive states continue to undertake dangerous journeys to Europe even in the middle of winter.
In Germany, which has taken in over one million refugees, tensions remain high after mass New Year’s Eve sexual assaults and robberies that involved refugees. German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces increasing domestic pressure to reverse her open door policy as the country deals with the arrival of over one million refugees. German politicians penned a letter to Merkel asking her to change her mind over her open arms refugee policy citing “excessive demands on our country.”
Protecting external borders a precondition for effective #migration policy. If not consequences may go beyond dismantling Schengen
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) January 19, 2016
“I guarantee you that a solution to the crisis will not be achieved through a closure of the border,” said Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in response to the letter. He added the EU must focus on refugee resettlement — a program that has so far failed to make much of a dent resettling fewer than 300 refugees out of a total of 160,000.
Merkel has continued to stand firm on her refugee policy, but it has cost her political points, with a new poll released Tuesday showing support for the chancellor’s bloc down to 32.5 percent, Reuters reported. Merkel declined her invitation to this year's World Economic Forum in order to deal with the ongoing domestic crisis.