For many decades Western Europe has welcomed people from other parts of the world to settle and become citizens becoming more culturally diverse. Some of the new arrivals came as the consequence of the ending of European colonialism and in countries such as the UK they have welcomed new citizens from the Indian sub-continent, Africa and Southeast Asia. Others such as Germany welcomed new arrivals from Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia to help rebuild the country after the Second World War.
Since the West took the decision to involve themselves militarily in the Middle East and Afghanistan, which was then followed by the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, we have witnessed a movement of people of biblical proportions across European countries bordering the Mediterranean.
In the summer of 2015, numbers of arrivals peaked and the total number of those seeking residence in Europe reached one million. After decades of immigration not being the number one issue across Europe it was now front and centre. As a result, we are witnessing a change in the European Union that would justify changing the name of European Disunited.
I’ve looked countries at either end of Europe to understand more about what is happening. In Sweden, with no real colonial history and who is seen as a “humanitarian superpower” it has received more refugees per capita than any other western country. In 2015 a country with a population of 10m took in 163,000 refugees. This brought massive pressure on schools, the job market, housing and finance contributing to the rise of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats to the number two political party.
A professor in social anthropology at Malmo University said Sweden is now one of the worst countries at integration of foreigners. This is a country where getting a job without education is impossible resulting in foreigner joblessness three times more than the locals. In Herrgarden, where 85 per cent of the population were born overseas and the most deprived place in Sweden, only 27pc are in work compared to almost 80pc nationally.
At the other end of Europe, we have Hungary a country very different to Sweden. Hungary over the centuries has invaded a numerous occasions Western Europe as far west as modern-day France and Spain. Like Sweden they have a population of around 10m but unlike Sweden they are a much more devout Christian society where Muslims make up only 0.06pc of the population.
While Sweden welcomed refugees in 2015 the UN secretary general condemned the Hungarian government’s treatment of refugees in its southern border, arguing that the use of teargas, pepper spray and water cannon on people fleeing war and hardship is not acceptable.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned “countries that don’t stop immigration will be lost. Africa wants to kick down our door, and Brussels is not defending us. Europe is under invasion already, and they are watching with their hands in the air.”
The EU has been unable to deal with the big issues it faces. Despite years of trying to develop a more practical and equitable refugee policy, we still have a blank sheet of paper. As I said earlier, it is a disunited Europe rather than a united Europe.