Europe’s migration crisis: a humanitarian response?

03/12/2015 di Chrystel Papi

Today, the Mediterranean has become the most blood-tainted water for border crossing and Europe has turned into the world’s most dangerous desire for immigrants. The Paris attacks have undeniably sparked considerable division over the various EU effort proposals to manage the strains of the largest mass movement in Europe since the end of World War II.


Today, the Mediterranean has become the most blood-tainted water for border crossing and Europe has turned into the world’s most dangerous desire for immigrants. In this very instant the European Union is attempting to cope with a growing tide of desperate migrants and refugees, whom already amount to more than 3,000 deaths since the beginning of the year. Until recently the entry-point states held unilateral responsibility for migrants and refugees under the Dublin Regulation –a law originally accorded in 1990 when Europe was facing a completely different reality. Its reform constitutes an important step in asserting a common European asylum policy, something that is coherently lacking at the moment.

The wake of the Paris attacks on November 13th have undeniably sparked considerable division over the various EU effort proposals to manage the strains of the largest mass movement in Europe since the end of World War II. The political repercussions have become widespread across Europe. In Poland, just hours after the shooting, Szymanski’s conservative government announced that it couldn’t see the “political possibilities” for enforcing the prior commitment to take in 7000 asylum seekers. In Italy, Renzi faces increased criticism from Matteo Salvini’s Northern League, whom not only calls for stronger migrant-entry restrictions, but also for the complete closure of European borders. The voice of Angela Merkel in Germany, the country that is accepting and providing the most assistance to asylum seekers, is also prone to amplified challenges from politicians. Furthermore, in France, Hollande’s immediate response to impose temporary border controls is deemed insufficient by far-right opposition leader Marine Le Pen, whom calls for the full abolishment of the Schengen treaty and the ultimate protection of French frontiers.

True, the Schengen treaty does rule that member states are permitted to erect temporary border controls in the face of national security mitigation. Though what certainty is there that these fears will not incite countries to altogether cease borderless travel? For now, in spite of the outright objections, the September agreement to aid in the resettlement of over 160,000 migrants from Greece, Italy, and Hungary to other twenty-three member states is still being projected. Also, following the UNHCR report that 1.9 million Syrians have taken refuge in Turkey and over 630,000 in Jordan ever since the dawn of the Arab Spring, EU policymakers proposed to provide further aid to support Turkey and Jordan, whom are enduring funding limitations while struggling with influx of Syrian refugees. And as of the 24th November the EU has accorded a 3 billion Euro aid-facility to supporting the Turkish influx of refugees.

Still, the EU’s migration policy issues are far from being solved. For starters, these 160,000 migrants are only a small fraction of those seeking asylum, and countries such as Denmark or the UK are exempt from EU asylum policies as stated by the 2009 Lisbon Treaty provisions. Donald Tusk’s call for the need to build asylum centers in third countries, so to permit refugees to apply for asylum in European Union before journeying across the dangerous Mediterranean passage, can also be questioned. Surely, the European Council also aims at reducing the number of irregular migrants that disembark on European shores. However, analysts argue that the projected number of applicants would be too excessive for the host countries to contain, ultimately disrupting their already fragile stability.

Contemporarily, a “safe-countries list” needed to help States advance asylum applications – as well as deportations – has also been proposed. However, the States’ method and procedure in drawing such lists is disputable, these could potentially violate asylum seeker’s rights. A ten-point plan on migration was also suggested in April 2015. This policy included the systemic effort to capture illegal smuggling vessels. European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, sought UN authorization for using military force against Libyan cost smugglers. Russia, straightforwardly signaled that it would oppose any proposal aimed to destroy smugglers’ vessels. Still, in September Mogherini revived the proposal with the Libyan national unity government and the UN Security Council. Rather tragically, this excessive attention paid to the disruption of smuggling operations and ambitious destruction of the smugglers’ boats distracts European leaders from recognizing the driving force of migration: poverty and the violent conflict across the Middle Eastern, African, and South Asian regions ultimately leaves people no other choice but to escape.

It is safe to underline how despite the daily escalating numbers of victims and human grievances, the collective response to this migrant tide is more concerned with securing European borders rather than on protecting the rights of refugees. An overwhelming inadequacy afflicts the EU’s response to the imminent immigration crisis, the main European proposals for managing one of the most alarming tribulations of the decade feel ultimately deficient.

Internal strains are evidently nurturing popular sentiments that urge governments to disregard the need for international protection and emphasize instead national security concerns. Though Europe can close its frontiers, drive refugees to the borderline, initiate maritime pushbacks, erect concrete walls, and make barbed-wire fences its policy norm, but as long as there is terror, conflict, and war, the lack of an effective political solution will be met by a continued struggle with refugee tides. Europe cannot turn its back forever.

True, the prospects of a negotiated ceasefire to the Syrian Civil War, a restoration of Libyan and Afghan political stability, or an end to the Sub-Sahara African conflicts feel awfully remote. Though possibly increasing assistance in the Middle East and North Africa, and encouraging the resettlement of refugees can spark a light of hope at the end of the tunnel. Europe is capable of making a difference.

The words of Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, rightly resound; “Have we really forgotten that after the devastation of the Second World War, 60 million people were refugees in Europe? That as a result of this terrible European experience, a global protection regime, the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, was established to grant refugee to those who jumped the walls in Europe to escape from war and totalitarian oppression?” The right to asylum must be respected; human life must be protected and not tampered out of fear. Has Europe forgotten?

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