Europe´s refugee crisis: What should be done?

The current situation in the Mediterranean Sea, where huge numbers of refugees and labor migrants were drowning in the last weeks puts a lot of public pressure on the EU. Some time ago, the EU operations in that area were scaled back, from ‘Mare Nostrum’ to ‘Triton’. Simultaneously, troubled societies and failing states created an atmosphere that triggered people in ever more countries to leave. Organized criminal gangs took advantage of this, trading unsecure ways of transport to Europe against secure cash. The EU was taken by surprise, suprisingly. There are policy deficits, not enough money earmarked for the problem, and distribution problems between governments. Now, emergency summit meetings try to cope with the pictures from people drowning in the sea.

The difficult question is now: Should the EU take as many refugees as possible, under the motto “saving human lives no matter what”? Or should it consider the likely consequences, like opening the gates a bit more would encourage many more people to come? Why are most EU countries very hesitant to accept refugees, while a few EU member states (Italy, Germany, Sweden, Malta, Austria) take almost all of them? Would camps for refugees in Northern Africa be a good idea, for screening their expected asylum applications already there? Is there a special responsibility for Europe to address this question, or just geographical contingency?

  1. Hildegard Müller 3 years ago

    Since the 1990s, the refugee policy has been regulated and coordinated at EU level. Therefore it is easy to scapegoat the EU for this scandalous policy. But that would be factually incorrect and therefore it would not be helpful in formulating a humane refugee policy in the EU.

    The current EU refugee policy mainly reflects the interests of the governments of the member states. The Dublin Regulation provides legal certainty with regard to the procedure for granting the right of asylum – but on a very restrictive basis.

    Most asylum seekers come from North Africa across the Mediterranean to Italy, Spain, Malta and Greece. According to the Dublin Regulation, the economic and social integration of asylum seekers is the responsibility of the receiving countries alone. But since the outbreak of the EU financial crisis, these countries have been under tremendous economic pressure and have reached their financial limits, also due to the austerity policies imposed by Germany. This has lead to massive social conflicts or increasing xenophobia and racism in these countries.

    A reform of the EU asylum law is still pending. We should strive for a Europe that remains open to those who are looking for protection. When it comes to the reception of refugees, solidarity between the EU member states is currently largely non-existent. This is probably the biggest challenge for the future.

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  2. Justas Paleckis 3 years ago

    During 10 years of work in the European Parliament I have seen that there has been a lot of talk about illegal migration and refugees, and little is being done.
    My guess would be that this current flurry will also not be much help in settling this matter. The problem is that the majority of EU citizens (and in the new countries – a huge majority) support the “Fortress Europe“ option – excluding almost all of the refugees. Any referendum on this issue would show such tendencies. If the consensus on the issue is possible between the EU states and governments, it is the opinion of the citizens of individual countries that differ not only from each other but also in supporting their governments. This is another problem that explodes the EU from inside. On the other hand, the growing gap between rich and poor countries, rich and poor people – which are the main causes of illegal migration – is one of the main threats that could destroy the world. Therefore, a successful response to it can only be global one.

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  3. Alexei Voskressenski 3 years ago

    The refugee crises put in focus two new political problems for Europe.
    The first one is how to respond to a massive wave of refugees from countries in trouble. Should EU countries take more and more refugees notwithstanding political and economic consequences? Or should they press the countries in conflict to create a system that enables them to keep refugees on their own territories, in order to let the EU consider each individual petition, rather than being troubled by waves of people seeking asylum in Europe for many decades? And also probably to pay for this system. The second one is much more complicated. It is a necessity to help settle conflicts in the countries of their origin from which people are trying to leave en masse – first and foremost Libya, but also many others in Africa. The second choice implies strategic vision and political will and is a Litmus test for EU countries to act coherently notwithstanding their geographical position vis-⁠a-⁠vis an African continent.

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  4. Barbara Dietz 3 years ago

    The deadly accidents of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Europe finally prompted European Union politicians to enter into the debate on the protection and admission of people fleeing from conflict, persecution and poverty. This is going to be a very controversial discussion reflecting the generally reluctant attitude of Europeans towards foreigners, particularly refugees. Nevertheless, Europeans have to recognize that it is their non-negotiable legal obligation to protect refugees fleeing from war and political pursuit. And it has to be understood that persons who take the risk of crossing the Mediterranean Sea in order to escape poverty and lack of prospects at home can’t be deterred altogether. Although the emergency summit in Brussels on April 23 formulated first steps to respond to the refugee crisis, a coordinated approach to actively manage desperate refugee and migration movements towards the European Union has not yet been taken seriously into consideration. Up to now the most important achievements were the budget tripling of naval border-surveillance programs that operate around the Italian, Maltese and Greek shorelines and an intensified struggle against human smugglers. This is necessary, but a joint European Union effort to cope with foreseeable refugee flows has to go much further. First, burden sharing has to be improved for those EU countries receiving the most arrivals (Italy, Greece and Malta) and those receiving the most asylum-seekers (Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and United Kingdom). Second, as far as possible the European Union has to enter into policy exchange with sending and transit countries to improve the situation on-the-spot. This includes peace-building as well as development policies. Third, more legal alternatives for refugees and migrants have to be formulated such as expanded humanitarian admission schemes, enhanced family reunification, visa arrangements for (temporary) work and study visits. Without realistic alternative channels for refugees, European Union efforts to fight human smugglers will not be effective. Fourth, European Union representatives have to raise the awareness of EU citizens for their legal responsibility for refugees which is embedded in the European Convention on Human Rights. This has to go hand in hand with a comprehensive discussion on the economic and social integration of refugees and immigrants in European countries, reflecting the relevance of migration for ageing and shrinking societies.

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  5. Jochen Wermuth 3 years ago

    To address the refugee crisis in a sustainable fashion, the EU must put in place a massive investment plan of say Euro 200bn for solar and wind power capacity. They now offer power for as little as 6 USD cents per kilowatt hour versus the 30 to 50 cents people pay for power from diesel generators now. Such a cheap power supply will create a real perspective for the refugees to make their own livelihood. Furthermore, the EU must abolish its massive subsidies on its farmers and the borders to free trade to allow African farmers to make a living.
    Refugees must be taken in in large numbers until they have a good place to return to – i.e. once the renewable power is in place they should return.

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  1. Theresia Muvanya 3 years ago

    The solution should be long-term and requires courage from politicians.I was personally shocked to hear from some German pressreports that the the cause of te refugees were the traffickers.Worse still part of the European so called ten point plan to combact the crisis is to destroy the traffickers boats.The truth is so long as the west keeps supporting dictators in the affected countries citizens of the affected countries will keep on fleeing their homeland,so long as multinational companies like Shell exploit Nigerias oil and pollute the river region, the citizens of Nigeria who are the majority of refugees from sub-saharan Africa will keep on on fleeing and solong as the the EU keeps on giving subsidies to its farmers and marginalising African goods and markets this problem will not go away.Making profits by selling Arms to such dictators or banking their loot will only worsen the situation.This is a Global problem and should not be given a chance to land in the tray of “messy policy issues”.It requires a sober policy,it is amusing to see how selfish economic interests can backfire on the people who created them,it is a wake up call for humanity to realise how interdepent humanity is.

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    1. AW 3 years ago

      What is wrong with destroying the trafficer’s boats? These people are exposing other to an immense risk, get money for that and break the law. Their boats have to be destoied and they themselves should be panished.

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  2. Mathias. Jongkor 3 years ago

    Immigrants were drowning on their way to Europe were becoming a huge problem for the European Union, immigrants drowning are unusual in crossing Mediterranean every year are a suicide of thousand of asylum seekers into Mediterranean Seabed.

    It is an embarrassing for international community to hear an echoed immigrants drowning from International Newspaper, TV and Face book. Immigrants drowning grabbed the world attention to the incident of Mediterranean. Immigrants drowning at European shore were agitated European Union with their societies.

    Every year, ambulances of receiving countries rescue survivals at its shore. In the light of this repetition, the European Union met in Brussels to figure out how to protect immigrants inside Europe. Despite the fact that the big coats of immigrants are being taken by Germany and Sweden every year, meanwhile immigrants are taking advantage of European Schengen visa and roaming around Europe.

    At the meantime, Europe still facing many problems:
    One problem is unemployment because European jobs are being taken to Asia for cheaper labors; another problem is technology inside Europe that also taking jobs; in addition, other countries are still facing austerities measures; finally, other countries have a shortage of housing; all together are problems looming European Union. So, it is hard to Europe to take an accurate position on immigration issues.

    The UN is doing little job to bring peace in Middle East, it just send humanitarian assistance to Syria, and European Union does the same thing, the Super powers seem divide over Syria, the US does not want to go alone to Syria, She wants a collective job with multinational cooperation to be involved in Syria. Russia, China can help to bring peace to Syria but their interests are too high in the area. Others countries such as Iran and Israel are watching political game in Middle East.

    So, as long, the civil war is going on in Syria, Libya, and Yemen as well, and root cause has not been fixed yet. Then, the roaming of immigrants in Europe, and immigrants drowning on their way at the European shoes will not stop.

    Yes, solar energy is so important to Africa for hospitals, schools infrastructures and even small business such as pharmacy that can not run without energy, but the question is who will install the Solar energy and maintain it, and which country in Europe will take a lead to implemented? These are some questions should bear in mind in proposing such a wonderful idea in solving in Africa and Middle East.

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  3. Astrid Schmidt-King 3 years ago

    From Cradle to Grave: The Migrant Spring

    Often referred to as the cradle of civilization, today the Mediterranean Sea serves as a grave site; like the Arab Spring, this Migrant Spring has proven to be a deadly one. While the thousands of deaths are harrowing, what is more concerning is the European Union’s (EU) impassive immigration policy and that their response to the crisis was arguably only a result of the media’s coverage and criticism. But the 28 nations of the EU are not alone in choosing to turn a blind eye to the deeper challenges and fundamental questions posed by migration in this age of globalization. Though the EU’s boat people have received much public attention due to the magnitude of the loss, what this story symbolizes and represents is of even greater concern. This latest incident is not distinct, but rather it is part of a disturbing pattern of indignant and apathetic attitudes and actions towards migrants.

    While the regrettable deaths on the Mediterranean provoked renewed international awareness around migration, there are closely related undercurrents at play—globalization, economic uncertainty, national identity and the War on Terror; left unchecked, the confluence of these forces could drown many more. As our societies become more interconnected through the movement of people, capital, goods, and services and the utilization of technology, we need to remain acutely aware of the inequitable impact this has on developing and underdeveloped countries. Add to this, or perhaps because of this, we have seen growing disparities of wealth, increases in internal conflicts and interstate wars and a rise in extremist groups. All of these issues are not independent of one another; they are part of the larger discussion about migration.

    When faced with migration and economic uncertainty, nation states turn inward, toward the ‘self’ and against the ‘other.’ Aside from touching upon a country’s borders and social, historic, economic, cultural and political fabric, the questions surrounding migration in this age of globalization are deeply personal in nature—they challenge the country and its inhabitants to ask hard questions that get at core beliefs about identity and openness. If we are being honest, the answers to these questions make us feel uncomfortable and we often remain silently embarrassed by the disturbing truths we uncover; in turn, in an effort of diversion, we point to a myriad of other reasons for our opposition to migrants. And it may be that increasing globalization and migration, which profoundly challenge our comfort level with the ‘other,‘ makes nationalism an attractive default position. Though counter-intuitive, it seems that globalization and migration share a direct, not inverse, relationship with nationalism. The softening of borders and the integrating of cultures are viewed by many as a threat; when individuals and states feel vulnerable, their actions are reactive and defensive rather than responsive and proactive.

    This is the time to be proactive. Though there is a long-standing universal need for the development of realistic, pragmatic and proactive immigration policies, the political will to lead on this issue has largely been non-existent; the absence of prudent immigration policies is telling and speaks to a bigger issue and an inconvenient truth. So while the proposed ten point plan crafted by the EU may be a starting point for responding to the current crisis, it does not address fundamental questions that surround the controversial issues of migration and integration. Are countries ready to re-define themselves and re-imagine what it means to be nation-state in this globalized world? Can a country be multicultural without losing its identity as a nation-state? Though a country may need immigration, it may not want migrants—how does a country reconcile the tensions between these two competing notions? Many countries approach the migration question in a selective fashion, supporting immigration policies that attract skilled laborers and ignoring the need for policies that support immigrant populations deemed ‘less desirable’—what does this mean for the protection of refugees?

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  4. Begoña Parajón Robles 3 years ago

    First of all, there are two categories: refugees and labor migrants. This situation is not new. Politicians will only try to do something if we, the public opinion, push them to do it. Human rights are universal and if someone is going to die we have the obligation to do everything in our hands to help them.

    The EU tries since years to hand the problem over to countries that haven’t even implemented the refugee convention and that do not observe the universal human rights (Morocco, Libya, etc.).

    We think that the problem is that people is dying when they are trying to cross the sea and come to Europe. But we are wrong, how many people are dying in the desert trying to get to North Africa? How many are been killed, abused, tortured in North African countries? We just don’t care enough about it to organize us as population and force our governments to work together and end this situation.

    According to UNHCR there are some 20 million refugees living in refugee camps all over the world, some of them have been living there for over 30 years (Sahrawi camps) because of the UN inability to enforce its own resolutions.

    In Europe live 738 millions of persons. 100 persons “adopt” 3 refugees. Each of us is responsible for these deaths and each of us can do something to help them, refugees and labor migrants. You can always find a refugee in your country, adopt him, pay for their papers, help him find a job and so on. But it is always easier to pass the problems either to our governments, or to the UN, or the the EU and they do the same as us. They transfer the problem to the countries in North Africa by giving them our money.

    And we, all, don’t care enough about this humanitarian catastrophe to stop it.

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  5. Andrew Vecsey 3 years ago

    I am a Swiss-Canadian citizen who has a great deal of concern and interest in refugees. I would like to share my proposal ideas with the hopes of getting feedback and new ideas. I hope that my ideas or something similar to them can be implemented one day. I have formulated these ideas in a blog, but my first hurdle is getting people to read it. The blog is at:
    I am looking for relevant contact email addresses to send a proposal for easing the ever growing world wide refugee problem
    Thanking you in advance
    Andrew Vecsey

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  6. omar 3 years ago

    Europe must pay the price and no matter how dearly … remember that cleanliness and development and progress came from these refugees grandparents sweat When they were occupiers of their country For hundreds of years….painful truth that would not be forgotten, Except idiots and racists

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