In the August of last year German Chancellor Angela Merkel set herself apart from her contemporaries and did the unthinkable, that is, she allowed her humanity to shape policy and not visa versa. In short, she proposed an expansion in the flow of refugees to Germany, and advocated that EU member states open their borders with greater vigour and charity than before. With vitriolic verve Merkel denounced the xenophobic waves that have arisen from the current migration challenge, and reminded Europe’s leaders of the humanitarian obligations they must adhere to. Noting that, “if Europe fails on the question of refugees, then it won’t be the Europe we wished for,” makes no doubt about it, in the world of murky and mercurial politics that was in and of itself an audacious and rare thing. Could it be that Merkel had become a leader of the people, by the people and for the people - one that Europe so desperately needs?

Her anointment last year as ‘Time Magazine’s 2015 Person Of The Year’ [1] can almost be seen as a coronation of a truth that has become apparent to anybody watching, that is that she has emerged as one of the world’s most dominant and influential political leaders, and without doubt the European Union’s de facto leader. From the Euro crisis to the immigration battle, her political guide has seen her negotiate two existential crises that threatened the basic fabric of the Union.

Unlike Obama, she has not been weighed down by her own Shakespearean tragedy, nor she has been limited by the absurdity of American politics - not to say that European politics is that much better these days. Merkel brings a freshness to politics for she manages to perform that almost impossible of tightrope walks. She is the would-be saviour of Europe, and provides the leadership it so desperately needs and requires. However, a deeper inquiry reveals that her coronation as Europe’s moral saviour is missed place, as arguably she is leading Europe down an ill-conceived path.

For certain, as she turned humanitarian, counselling EU member states to “share responsibility for asylum-seeking refugees”, and advocated for a charitable approach to Europe’s immigration problem, one could not but admire her stance. It is a stance that is supported by action, as over the last four years, Germany and Sweden combined have received 47% of the Syrian asylum applications in the EU. In taking the lead on the refugee issue that has engulfed European politics, her August proposal, in the context of increasingly divisive anti-immigration sentiments, was a breath of fresh air. However, given said courageous position, her recent withdrawl from her August policy initiative is both an abhorrent betrayal of the moral principals she had originally laid out, as well as an acknowledgement of the flaws of Europe’s wider approach to displaced people.

To be clear, contrary to the cries of Right-wing anti-immigrant alarmists, Europe is not experiencing an immigration crisis, instead it is the countries neighbouring war torn states that are experiencing a crisis. The UNHCR (the United Nations refugee agency) estimates that in 2016 over 86% of the world’s refugees are harboured in developing countries. To put that in perspective, whilst Arab countries such as Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq have taken in the majority of the Syrian refugees — with the five countries combined sheltering 4 million displaced people - Amnesty International estimates that the 26 EU countries (not including Germany and Sweden have pledged a meagre 8,700 resettlement places for refugees. Despite being less equipped and able to handle the burden of huge refugee populations, countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Ethiopia, to mention but a few, have borned the true weight of the refugee crisis. And yet, less than 4 months after her original announcement Merkel began to alter from the previous course that she had laid out with regards to Germany’s broad refugee policy. Her shift arrived as a disappointment as it casts a shadow on her earlier stance, but more than that, it points to the glaring flaws of her original pronouncements. Otherwise said, her betrayal reveals a profound inconsistency that is at the heart of the forced migration debacle.

What has become glaringly apparent in recent months is the extent to which Europe has been ill-prepared for the influx of asylum seekers and refugees. Given the nature of international conflicts and mass-migrations, the EU’s unpreparedness can not be excused as “unexpected”. Germany, for all the goodwill that Merkel offered, has also found itself scrambelling to deal with the logistical and financial management of the problem. An analysis of Merkel’s August initiative reveals a series of key pitfalls. Firstly, Merkel underestimated the divisive response that her unilateral in character stance would have, and the extent to which this would bitterly divide European member states.

She grossly miscalculated the vigour and opportunism of Right-wing anti-immigrant parties as these took advantage of highly emotive events, such as the Paris terrorist attacks. Secondly, Merkel’s failure to consult with other EU leaders concerning her proposal which waived the usual Dublin Treaty Limitation that stipulates that asylum seekers be sent back to the first country through which they entered the continent, illustrates both her strength and weakness of leadership. Thirdly, Merkel’s proposal failed to account for the logistical, administrative and financial realities of such large numbers of migrants arriving to Europe. Fourthly, and perhaps most alarmingly, is that Merkel failed to address the profound logistical craves at the centre of Europe’s immigration framework, that is, the entirely inhumane, irrational and disjointed experiences of these displaced people. This no doubt constitutes the most disastrous aspect of Europe’s response to the current migration challenge. For instance, since Germany is not an entry country, migrants would need to travel through and across various member states in order to reach Germany’s borders, Merkel’s proposal did not offer sufficient detail as to how migrants are meant to do this.

Europe’s management of the current influx of migrants from conflict regions has been a planned calamity. Its less than humanistic approach to the plight of displaced people has been compounded by a limited administrative and logistical model that itself has been hugely neglected and underfunded. Despite EU member state’s structural advancement they have proven themselves to be remarkably ill-equipped to handle the proportionally tiny percentage of migrants arriving on their shores? Merkel’s August vision, though inspired by goodwill, was profoundly flawed as it reproduces an intrinsically inept immigration model, one that is both ineffective and inefficient in the face of current challenges.

The madness is that Europe’s leaders are proposing a plaster for an unease that needs to be addressed at its source. To be clear, once refugees, asylum seekers and forced migrants have reached migrants camps or ill prepared border dwellings, all remedies are nothing more than ill-timed plasters. EU States should be establishing processing centres in first-asylum countries. This “orderly departure model”, which resembles the one that is predominantly employed in the US and Canada, would certainly contribute to a more humane and efficient management of the current issue. The sick, the old and young children should not have to travel thousands of miles along precarious routes only to have a small chance at being let in, and a high chance of being sent back.

Germany – ideally all of Europe – should do all it can to shift to the quota resettlement model. This will of course require brave leadership, leadership that is willing to discard the outdated models of migration management, as well as mandate a re-evaluation of Europe’s core humanitarian principals - and the extent to which these are not being met. The ongoing consequence of Europe’s failure is a worsening of the situation as ever-increasing numbers of migrants herd at ill-equipped European outside borders - this is to say nothing of the thousands who have drowned making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. This is a remedy that must be applied with both haste and urgency as the issue will continue to spiral out of control.

[1] Merkel was the first woman since 1971 to be receive such an accolade.