Schengen is dead

Mass deportation or mass migration. Those are the two choices facing Europe. And only one of them will permit the avoidance of systemic violence. Americans would do well to understand what “free trade” and “open borders” looks like when labor has the mobility of capital.

The migration crisis that Europe has feared for so long has now materialised. At the weekend, the Italian navy picked up 3,000 people from ramshackle craft in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya. The Greeks are struggling to cope with the thousands arriving via Turkey. On the Macedonian border with Greece, riot police tried in vain to hold back hundreds of migrants making their way towards Germany and beyond. In the end, they relented and put many of them on chartered trains heading north.

What is to be done?

The problem for the EU is that the clamour from desperate people wanting to enter its gilded portals cannot be heeded without causing domestic political upheaval. It is all well and good refugee groups and other humanitarian grandstanders calling for the gates to be thrown open to all-comers; this will simply not be countenanced by Europe’s voters. In Berlin, where Angela Merkel held emergency talks with French president, François Hollande, the pressure is mounting on the government after it was confirmed that Germany expects 800,000 refugees this year, more than the entire EU received in 2014.

Unsurprisingly, the Germans are now complaining that they are being asked to take too many migrants, all of whom must have arrived through other countries. The demands for “burden sharing” are growing as the crisis deepens. But what exactly does this mean? Since there are no borders in Europe under the Schengen Treaty, a quota system – whereby, say, Finland takes 50,000, Ireland 30,000 and the UK 100,000 – is meaningless: once the migrants are in the EU, they can go where they want. Conditions could be attached to residency qualifications and working rights, but how would they be enforced? ID cards would have to be issued throughout the entire EU; all incomers would have to be fingerprinted and have their biometrics taken and stored; restrictions would need to be imposed on family reunion.

When the founding fathers of the old Common Market established free movement of people as a fundamental principle, they did not for a moment envisage a borderless entity of 26 continental countries (including four non-EU nations), not least because much of Europe at the time was under the heel of the Soviet Union. When the Schengen agreement was signed, in 1985, there were 10 member states – and only five wanted to take part. Britain and Ireland retain an opt-out to this day. In 1990, the formal abolition of frontiers and visa controls coincided with the collapse of communism and the first wave of immigration into western Europe began, principally from countries that have since joined the EU. This latest encroachment is far more problematic since there are, in theory, millions of people who would like to come to Europe.

Considering that refugee camps are already being attacked in Germany, Italy, and Sweden, and that Hungary and Serbia are building walls of the sort they never needed to erect during the Cold War, this is is not immigration, this is not migration, this is invasion. Europe has fought off invasion from the South before, and it will do it again. As the 700-year history of the Reconquista shows, there is no such thing as an irreversible trend.