By Tiffany Dang, US student, AUBG Blagoevgrad
In 2015, the EU was faced with a migrant crisis due to a major influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa. Migrants from these regions flooded into the EU too seek asylum, having to flee from their war-torn countries. Since the migrant crisis of 2015, there has been an increase in anti-migrant sentiments in Europe. The anti-migrant rhetoric has dominated in the politics of many EU member states in the past couple of years, and the question now is, will these right-winged, anti-migrant parties dominate in the upcoming EU elections?
European far-right populism is on the rise and it seems to be ever growing. Italy offers the biggest example of this rise in populism. Italy poses a big threat in Europe due to the growing influence of its large anti-immigrant Lega party. The country, being situated in the midst of the Mediterranean, has dealt with more migrants than others, many of them remaining stranded on its territory. Italy believes that it is bearing an overly heavy burden, while other countries are not doing their part. Lega’s leader Matteo Salvini is taking advantage of this. He has established relationships with other member states that hold the same populist views as his country, thus shaping a future coalition in the European Parliament.
With such a rise in populism, the question is what would be its impact for the European Parliament, following the EU election? Will this growing populism call for more and more powerful anti-migrant parties into the European Parliament?
All of this anti-migrant sentiment has taken a toll on those coming to seek refuge in the EU. Another example of this sentiment is Hungary, also known as the most anti-migrant country in Europe. Hungary’s government has imposed harsh laws aimed at deterring migrants from passing through and staying in their country. They also set up a barbed wired fence along their border to ensure that no migrant gets into their country.
Like I said before, thousands and thousands of migrants crossed through the dangerous Mediterranean to make it into Europe. But sadly, for some, their journey was cut short. Such dangerous conditions have left people stranded on their way and many have died at sea. Migrants risk their lives in order to flee to Europe in order to seek refuge, but it seems that some countries in the EU have forgotten the duty to helping those in need of asylum. In no way is this right, or fair. Many people flee conflicts and leave everything behind, enduring harsh conditions on the way just to come to Europe, just to realize that this is not the Europe they had imagined.
With anti-migration sentiments and populism growing, will more harsh laws be imposed on the EU wide level for the denial of migrants? Only the upcoming elections will tell.
This issue hits close to home to me because as an American studying in the EU, seeing and learning about EU elections and the growing populist movement is something that I am not used to. In America, we are known for being a population of immigrants, and my parents too where once immigrants in America. It is quite sad seeing the growing ant-migrant sentiment because as someone living in a country made up of immigrants, it has made me come to accept and appreciate everyone from all walks of life. It does not matter where you come from, it matters where you are, and I hope that countries in the EU can show a better face to those in need of asylum.