The EU Refugee Crisis: What You Need to Know

The refugee crisis (sometimes called ‘migrant’ crisis) in the European Union (EU) is a hot button issue right now. It is just a subset of the larger political discussions concerning immigration that are currently happening. Here are the few things you need to know.

Why is there a refugee crisis?

The numbers of people displaced around the world are at an all-time high. According to the UNHCR’s most recent global report, there are over 14 million refugees in the world and an additional 32 million internally displaced people (those who have been forced from their homes but are still in their own country). Many of these are Syrian refugees, thousands of whom have attempted to travel to Europe by boat through the Mediterranean Sea or over land via Turkey.

What is the ‘crisis’ exactly?

The crisis is that the European Union has certain policies about hosting refugees and processing the claims of asylum seekers and those policies are breaking down due to current surge of individuals seeking to gain access to the EU. The most important policy to understand is the Dublin Regulation, so named because it was signed in Dublin, Ireland. This policy states that a refugee seeking international protection through asylum must be processed by the European Union country into which he or she first entered. The primary objective of the Dublin Regulation is to prevent individuals from applying for asylum in multiple countries and therefore slowing down the process.

Unfortunately, this has meant that with the current influx of refugees fleeing to the EU over land and sea that several member states (Italy, Greece, Hungary) have been burdened with outrageous numbers of asylum claims that they cannot possibly process on their own. Several meetings of EU leaders have resulted in no solutions to the problem, since some countries are unwilling to agree to a way of redistributing the refugees seeking protection. Some countries, like Hungary, have taken matters into their own hands by closing their borders and doing all they can to keep potential asylum seekers out (tear gas, water cannons, etc.).

But Germany says they will take in 800,000 refugees.

When Germany pledges to resettle 800,000 Syrian refugees, those refugees being referred to will be processed by UNHCR outside of the EU; they will not be the individuals who find a way to the EU on their own.

So, what happens now?

The EU needs to draft a new policy to replace the Dublin Regulation, or they need to hold their member states accountable to abide by the current policy. Unfortunately, both of these scenarios seem highly unlikely. The Dublin Regulation was signed in 1990, but didn’t take effect until 1997. It takes time for so many countries to reach an agreement about something so important. Instead of trying to do damage control now, someone should have seen this flaw in the Dublin Regulation 25 years ago. Countries like Hungary are so overwhelmed by the influx that they push it back into Serbia and Croatia who will now have the same problems Hungary did. No matter what solutions the EU devises at this point, they will be dealing with the repercussions of this crisis for many years to come.

Image: Wikipedia

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