Academic journal article Parameters

Military Force and Mass Migration in Europe

Academic journal article Parameters

Military Force and Mass Migration in Europe

Article excerpt

In 2016, President Donald Trump addressed the topic of Europe's mass migration crisis: "If you do not treat the situation competently and firmly, yes, it is the end of Europe." (1) These words of caution highlight the growing seriousness of the problem. In 2015, more than 1 million refugees and migrants flooded the southern border of Europe, with another 2.6 million seeking refuge in Turkey. (2) By the end of 2016, the European Union reported an additional 500,000 illegal border crossings while Turkey struggled to manage 3.5 million displaced civilians from neighboring war-torn states. (3) For comparison, Italy and Greece received over 1 million migrants and refugees by sea in 2015, and over 300,000 in the first nine months of 2016. (4) Compounding this challenge, members of criminal and terrorist organizations have embedded themselves in, and recruited from, vulnerable migrant and refugee populations. (5)

Although the United States supports the European community with diplomatic and economic aid, the cumulative impact of migration threatens to destabilize several member states within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. To achieve strategic objectives for a strong and resilient security posture within the Alliance, US leaders should consider employing limited military means to address the problem of mass migration in Europe.

This article argues the US military should support an overarching grand strategy to assist European allies facing the complex problem of mass migration. While current US policy has emphasized the use of diplomatic and economic support for affected nations, there has been little discussion concerning the use of the military arm of national power to help address this ongoing crisis. Yet, the examples of World War II Europe (1944-45), Bosnia (1992-95), and Kosovo (1999), highlight the historical value of applying US military leadership, planning, and resourcing as part of a holistic international humanitarian response.

Several key assumptions underpin our argument for increasing US military involvement to support the civilian response to mass migration. First, violence and economic hardship in the Middle East and Africa will continue to drive irregular migration flows into NATO member states, which will outpace the response capacity of European governments and conventional humanitarian relief actors. (6) Second, Islamic State activity will spike in Europe as the terrorist organization seeks soft targets to detract attention from strategic losses in Syria and Iraq. (7) Third, terror and criminal organizations will persist in leveraging the migration crisis through displaced civilian populations. (8) Fourth, European allies will become increasingly hostile toward migrants and refugees due to real and perceived economic and security threats. (9) Finally, domestic pressure will cause political leaders within the affected nations to look for options beyond civilian response activities.

European Security Environment

The recent surge of migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa has placed an enormous strain on the economic, security, and political stability of several states. The inflows create opportunities for international terrorists to aim weapons of mass migration toward Europe by embedding members among the displaced populations traveling from war-torn regions of the world. Germany confirmed 340 cases of Islamic extremists recruiting within refugee centers and Europol reported 300 cases of similar efforts. (10)

The European Union's efforts since 1999 to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, also known as Frontex, have failed to address several gaps in immigration security and control, including legal obstacles that prevent law enforcement collaboration to determine identities of suspected smugglers. (11) Since 2015, migrant-related terror activity in Europe has spiked, damaging the public's sense of domestic safety and injuring an already fragile economy. …

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