Table of Content
II. The EU Refugee Crisis
III. Evaluation of the EU Approach to Refugees and Migrants
IV.Suggestion for Improvement
List of Figures
Figure 1: Top 10 origins of people applying for asylum in the EU: First-time applications in 2015, in thousands (BBC, 2016a)
Figure 2: Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean by month (BBC, 2016a)
Figure 3: The Balkan route (BBC, 2016a)
Figure 4: Asylum claims in Europe, 2015 (BBC, 2016a)
“Refugee crisis”. Why is the current flow of migration generally called a crisis? In the last century, Europe faced major flows of migration and large movements of people, especially during and after the world wars. Nevertheless, the term crisis was never associated with refugees or used in order to label a flow of migration before.
A crisis is an expression for a time of intense difficulty or danger (Oxford University Press, 2016). Therefore, in the context of the EU and the current situation, the term indicates that the refugees are posing enormous difficulties and dangers to the European Union. More specific, these difficulties consist of the search for a mutual European agreement over the distribution and the acceptance of asylum seekers. This discussion is threatening the unity of Europe and causing therefore dangers to the uncertain future of the European Union.
The following chapter provides a review of the reasons for, origins and the development of the refugee crisis. It explains where and when the crisis started and how it progressed. The period of investigation starts in May 2011 and examines the main developments until the 30th of April 2016, later developments are not considered. Subsequently, through the gathered information, the European approach towards the refugees and migrants is evaluated, analysed, and compared to possible solutions. The succeeding last chapter finally suggests a fitting problem-solving approach, which would enable the EU to tackle the refugee crisis. This approach includes the possibility for Europe to solve the whole issue together as a unity while still respecting the desires of each EU member state.
II. The EU Refugee Crisis
This chapter is about the reasons for, origins and developments of the refugee crisis, starting in May 2011 and following the chain of events until the 30th of April 2016.
This refugee crisis is one of the biggest of our time and it is generating news, problems and challenges in a very rapid way. Nearly every day arise new developments, either new political decisions or new humanitarian abysses.
In March 2016, the overall number of Syrian people seeking shelter in neighbour countries amounted to around 4.8 million (ARD, 2016). Most of these refugees, around 2.7 million, fled to and were accepted by Turkey (ARD, 2016). Another 1.1 million were accepted by Lebanon, 640,000 by Jordan and 250,000 by Iraq (ARD, 2016). The events that led to these circumstances are described in the following pages:
The whole refugee crisis has its origins back in May 2011, when about 5,000 Syrian people began to flee into Lebanon after harsh fighting in the town of Talkalakh in the north-west of Syria (Weesjes, 2016). In June, due to the military siege of the town Jisr al-Shugjour in the north-west of Syria, a major flow of refugees into neighbouring Turkey is caused (Weesjes, 2016). In the subsequent five months, more and more people started to flee into Jordan and Turkey. Turkey then will have spent over US$15 million in order to set up six camps for thousands of refugees (Migration Policy Center, 2015)
In March and April 2012, many Syrian refugees were heading for the Bekaa valley in Lebanon and for the Iraqi Kurdistan region in northern Iraq in order to seek shelter there (Migration Policy Center, 2015). Two months later In July, intense warfare in the town Aleppo, which is only 30 miles from Turkey, caused up to 200,000 people to cross the Turkish border (Weesjes, 2016). As a response, Greece increased its border guards in case of an influx of Syrian refugees (Weesjes, 2016). Later that month, approximately 40,000 refugees crossed the Masnaa border post into Lebanon (Migration Policy Center, 2015). Subsequently, in August 2012, the occurrence of gunfights in Lebanon´s second largest city, where members of Tripoli´s Sunni and Alawite communities clashed, spread the fear of the war coming to Lebanon (Weesjes, 2016). On the 11th of September, 11,000 people fled from Syria into Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon in a 24-hour period (Weesjes, 2016). The first international reaction happened on December the 20th, when the UN refugee agency appealed international donors for US$1 billion support for the hundreds of thousands refugees that fled to Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt (Migration Policy Center, 2015).
After poor, cold weather conditions in January 2013, in which the refugees suffered a lot, the number of Syrian refugees reached the one million mark on the 6th of March (Weesjes, 2016). Until the 2nd of July, the refugee camps Za´atari and Domiz grew continuously and Domiz then reached its maximum capacities with 80,000 refugees (Migration Policy Center, 2015). Later in July, the war spread to Lebanon, in the form of several bombings in Lebanon´s capital (Weesjes, 2016). Furthermore, the number of people fleeing Syria every day reached an average of 6,000 people (Weesjes, 2016). On the 1st of September, the number of Syrian refugees reached the two million mark, including one million children (Weesjes, 2016). Also in September, Germany agreed to resettle 5,000 Syrians, which was the largest resettling program until then (Migration Policy Center, 2015). Additionally, Sweden offered permanent residency to refugees that already had been granted temporary residency in Sweden (Migration Policy Center, 2015). The protection against refugees began in October 2013 as Turkey began with the construction of a wall at the Syrian border and proceeded as Bulgaria started to build a fence on the Turkish border (Weesjes, 2016). In the end of 2013, the UN appealed further US$6.5 billion in order to help approximately one third of Syria´s population (BBC, 2016a).
The year 2014 began with the agreement of the UK to provide refuge for some of those most traumatised by the crisis in Syria (Weesjes, 2016). Furthermore, UNICEF stated that approximately 10,000 Syrian children are suffering from acute malnutrition and that the lack of education, healthcare and stability are creating a coming, “lost” generation (Weesjes, 2016). On the 29th of June, ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, announced its Caliphate in Syria and Iraq and that they would erase all state borders (Weesjes, 2016). At that time, circa 1.2 million Iraqis had also fled their homes (Migration Policy Center, 2015). On July the 7th, Europe had absorbed around 100,000 refugees whereas Syria´s neighbour countries accepted over 3 million (Weesjes, 2016). By mid-August, the Islamic State became the most successful rebel group in Syria, as they acquired the control over the main Syrian oil and gas fields (Weesjes, 2016). In September and October, ISIS continued its campaign by attacking Kurdish villages along the Syrian-Turkey border. As a result, hundreds of thousands Syrians crossed and fled over the Turkish border (Migration Policy Center, 2015).
Due to the ongoing ISIS campaign and the growing amount of refugees, Turkey began to close its borders with Syria on the 29th of March (Weesjes, 2016). Another reason was that Turkey feared that together with the refugees, terrorists could enter more easily into their country (Weesjes, 2016). In May, the EU stated that they had received over 626,000 applications for asylum (Weesjes, 2016). The origin of these asylum applications is illustrated in the following:
Figure 1: Top 10 origins of people applying for asylum in the EU: First-time applications in 2015, in thousands (BBC, 2016)
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According to the BBC (2016), the origin of the most people, who applied for asylum in the EU in 2015, was Syria by far. Countries that also had a large contribution to the amount of fleeing people were Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkan countries. More than one fourth of all these asylum seeking people were under the age of 18 and over fifty per cent were under the age of 25 (Spiegel, 2016). This means that the most refugees and migrants were young people.
On the 19th of April, a major tragedy occurred in the Mediterranean as more than 800 refugees were killed in their attempt to cross the sea with a boat. “The disaster marked the largest loss of life involving migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean […]”
(Weesjes, 2016). The overall development of migrants that died in the Mediterranean is illustrated in the following:
Figure 2: Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean by month (BBC, 2016)
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It is observable that the number of deaths is very fluctuating from month to month. Nevertheless, no month went by without migrants dying in the Mediterranean. The peaks of drowning people were reached from July to September in 2014 with an average of 700 people drowning and in April 2015 with 1250 dead migrants.
Following the tragedy in the Mediterranean in April, the EU was forced to act. Therefore, the member states agreed on a ten-point plan to increase financial resources addressed to the problem and the expenditure of the search area for the naval missions (Weesjes, 2016). Nevertheless, NGOs stated that the plan failed to address the true scale of the refugee crisis or to target its causes (Weesjes, 2016). In the end of May, June and July, Greek islands started to struggle to provide for the over 600 daily arriving refugees and called for help as 50,000 migrants arrived in Greece by sea in July alone (Weesjes, 2016). Furthermore, in July, the mark of four million Syrian refugees was exceeded and Hungary started to erect a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia in order to halt the unprecedented number of refugees seeking shelter in the EU (Weesjes, 2016). Furthermore, EU leaders agreed to accept further 32,256 refugees from Italy and Greece and they approved US$ 2.6 billion of aid over six years to countries dealing with large numbers of refugees, such as Greece and Italy (Weesjes, 2016). In August, September, October and November the increasing amount of migrants trekking from Greece through Europe caused Hungary, Macedonia, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia to build mile-long fences, tighten border controls and even close their boarders to people not coming from countries that are not tormented by war. The new established “Balkan route” is illustrated in the following:
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