A Failed Response

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Other than its open-air outlet mall, busy with shoppers from neighboring Slovakia and Hungary, there’s little memorable about the Austrian village of Parndorf. On Friday, August 27, however, Parndorf had its short moment of fame – for the worst of all possible reasons. On the hard shoulder of a highway outside of the village, Austrian police found a truck filled with 71 dead bodies, including those of four children. The dead, thought to be Syrians, had paid a criminal gang to drive them from Hungary to Germany, in a vehicle that was terribly ill-suited for the purpose.

The tragedy epitomizes the failure of Europe’s response to the inflow of asylum-seekers from the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan. The consequences of this failure will be serious. For one, it is already undoing the freedom of movement in the European Union (EU). The Schengen Agreement of 1985 eliminated border controls among most EU countries (and some non-members, such as Switzerland and Norway) but it left the duty of protecting the common ‘Schengen’ border and processing asylum requests to the individual member states.

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