The European Union is faced with a massive refugee crisis and political leaders have obviously very few ideas on how to deal with it. The Hungarian government has revived the old and misguided practice of building razor-wire fences that the French government has heavily criticised. A fair criticism but this rather ignores the situation back home in Calais that the British government among others finds unacceptable. But what does the UK do? Her Majesty’s Government too is fond of fences, having financed the construction of yet more barriers around the Eurotunnel terminal to avoid having to deal with refugees on British soil. In sum, a very sad state of affairs!
I was on air at Al Jazeera International yesterday afternoon to discuss what can be done and you can watch the full interview below:
I think that there are four areas that need urgent policy attention:
- The EU should be much more (pro)active in crisis prevention and resolution. If you work more effectively to prevent crises in the first place you avert the main reason for people to flee their home country.
- As Paul Collier wrote on Social Europe, the vast majority of refugees are located in the neighbouring areas of crisis-stricken countries. We must adopt a much better strategy to help these countries and improve the lives of these actual/potential refugees.
- We really need to clamp down on people smugglers who make money off the plight of refugees and lead many of them to their graves. This simply has got to stop.
- We also need a much better integrated asylum/immigration system in EU member states and across the Union. This includes burden-sharing in a true spirit of solidarity and a proper distinction between refugees and immigrants – requiring an updating of the legal framework, for instance in Germany. There should also be a quicker solution for the people already living in Europe with an unstable status. In the case of Germany, it simply does not make sense to extradite fully integrated refugees who just long for a secure life and, at the same time, complain about a shrinking population, unfilled vacancies and social safety nets coming under pressure because of demographic change.
Solving this issue won’t be easy but it seems to me that, if we made progress in the four areas sketched out above, we would be able to handle this situation a lot better than we are doing right now.