Siberia, Auschwitz, Arctic? Radical refugee settlement options voiced as EU expects 1mn more people

Police maintain order as migrants attempt to leave the border crossing in Nickelsdorf, Austria September 14, 2015. © Leonhard Foeger
With the continuing influx of asylum seekers into Europe, politicians are scratching their heads on how to accommodate them all. While tents and shelters are being installed across Europe, some not-so-ordinary proposals have emerged.

Norwegian Arctic

Norway’s Greens want to house Syrian asylum seekers in the Arctic’s remote Svalbard, populated mainly by polar bears. The archipelago now has a population of 2,600, with about 400 more bears than humans. The Green Party actually has an admirable plan. The economy is dwindling and the coal industry is on its last breath.

Importing people would certainly improve the job sector, Espen Klungseth Rotevatn, the archipelago’s Greens representative told Norway’s Vart Land newspaper. But he believes the moral imperative is most important. The government is currently hard at work trying to finalize agreements (Svalbard is not in the Schengen free movement zone) to allow 10,000 or so Syrians to move and work there – among other things, building and maintaining an asylum center.

A runner passes a sign, warning of the dangers of polar bears, on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. © Francois Lenoir

Russia's Siberia, Far East

US lecturer and editor with the Progress Report magazine Fred E. Foldvary has come up with another ‘cold’ option. Foldvary says Russia's vast Siberia is a suitable place to accommodate Middle Eastern refugees. He claims there's a need for “a large area and a small population, so that population growth would be regarded as an asset rather than a liability.” Siberia certainly fits that description.

However, the author goes on to say that “one reason why Siberia has had a low population density is its climate, the long cold winters.” According to Foldvary, the option is win/win - it will put immigration pressure off Europe and help develop Russia's remotest regions.

A truck on a road in the Altai Territory, Siberia. © Alexandr Kryazhev

Nazi-era death camp

Poland, which suffered great human losses in wartime Europe, recently launched an investigation into online comments to an article about the renovation and maintenance of barracks of notorious former Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. The article was posted on the TVN24 channel's profile in Facebook and some comments below it suggested sending Syrian refugees to the notorious death camp. Some even called for the killing of asylum seekers. Those calls are probed over an “incitement of hatred on the grounds of national, racial and religious differences with regard to the Syrian refugees.” The issue of using the former Nazi death camps for any purpose, however good it is, remains a very sensitive issue in Europe.

Former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz in Oswiecim. © Lukasz Krajewski / Agencja Gazeta

Island in the Mediterranean

An island in the Mediterranean, between Greece and Italy, might turn out to be the lucky draw for some asylum seekers. The idea was pitched by Egyptian Telecoms billionaire Naguib Sawiris had disclosed plans recently to purchase and develop such a location to deal with refugees. Egypt’s third-richest man said in a recent tweet: “Greece or Italy sell me an island, I’ll call its independence and host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country.” The tweet and idea went viral.

The billionaire has identified potential locations and is now in talks to purchase two private Greek islands.

© Wikipedia

On Monday, EU member states reached an initial agreement on the redistribution of 120,000 asylum seekers among them during an emergency meeting, although the final decision will be made only in October. At the same time, Germany says it’s expecting around 1 million refugees this year. So far some 500,000 have already arrived in the European Union.

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