Managing the EU Migration Crisis
The recent influx of migrants into Europe from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia has presented European leaders and policymakers with their greatest challenge since
the Eurozone crisis. The issue has raised questions about security, sovereignty and integration that could have a lasting social, economic and political impact on the European Union (EU).
The crisis has highlighted two main challenges for the EU and Member States: first, it has called into question the idea of a borderless Europe, undermining Member States’
long-term commitment to the Schengen Agreement. This issue has intensified in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, leading to calls for tighter border security to counter perceived security threats. Several countries have reinstated temporary border controls.
In the longer term, though, this could dampen trade, impose new costs on businesses, slow the economic recovery and undermine a key tenet of European unity — the free movement of people.
Second, the sheer volume and complexity of the migrant inflow have put enormous strain on the asylum system. Some countries — particularly those on the southern external border — have reached breaking point in their ability to manage the unplanned inflow and meet EU standards for receiving and processing applicants. The problem is exacerbated by the diverse mix of new arrivals. While many are third-country nationals seeking asylum within the EU, they are mixed in with third-country nationals illegally entering EU territory
As the EU and Member States try to balance the need for enhanced border security with their obligations to migrants under international law, deep divisions have been exposed between states on how to handle the crisis. The escalating human toll has instilled a sense of urgency, but the EU’s collective response has been ad hoc, and it is struggling to find cohesive, long-term solutions. Some critics argue the response is focused more on stemming the tide than on providing international protection to vulnerable people.
To better manage the crisis, the EU and Member States must agree on ways to address these shortcomings in the asylum and immigration system:
– The disproportionate responsibility of certain Member States with external borders to handle migrant inflows, and an unwillingness among others to shoulder the burden
– Lengthy detention periods and poor treatment of refugees
– Inadequate resettlement and integration efforts
– A fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of current migration flows
– An inability to tackle the root causes of the crisis
In light of recent terrorist incidents and continued security threats in Europe, the focus will also be squarely on enhancing border security, both internally and externally.
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