Session 1: A Crisis of Values or Management: Migration in 2017
- Can Europe remain true to its values in this crisis?
- What are the lessons learned for Europe and the member states in managing the migration crisis?
- What is the alternative to the current deterrence policies implemented to keep immigrants away from Europe?
- Is this crisis only a humanitarian one, or is it first and foremost a political crisis?
- Invasion of Europe: What are the consequences of using migrants to fuel the rise of nationalism?
As a consequence of the ongoing violence and conflict in Syria and Iraq, more than million of migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015 alone, sparking a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the mass influx. The overall number of incoming migrants and refugees has declined, as data show that slightly over 360 000 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe in 2016. Although the number of migrants and refugees coming to Europe along the Balkan route has decreased following the controversial EU-Turkey deal, the number of refugees crossing the Mediterranean has risen significantly. By mid June of 2017, over 77,000 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea, while more than 1800 died or went missing in the attempt. The death rate almost doubled over the past year, which remains a pressing problem. The European Union as such, and particularly some of its member states, failed to generate quick and effective response to this crisis.
The migrant and refugee crisis has exposed the limits of solidarity and cooperation on political/state level, while the civil society organizations, charities and citizens took the greatest burden of the crisis. Member states have demonstrated that they are not willing to find common approach in sharing the responsibility and burden. In the debates on finding a common solution, the member states demonstrated a variety of different attitudes, whilst some of them inflexibly sticking to their narrow national or political interests. Instead of generating consensus and displaying unity, the attempt to impose quotas drafted by the EU institutions contributed to further divisions. Populism and xenophobia have increased in the wake of the crisis, which has complicated the efforts to accept and integrate migrants and refugees, but also the ability of Union to stand by its values.
In spite of the decrease in numbers of migrants and refugees, it is clear that the crisis is not over yet. As the consequence of the mass influx and serious deficiencies in the management of the external borders, certain EU Member states re-imposed temporary border controls at the internal borders, which endangered the overall functioning of the Schengen area. The EU needs to find a way to manage the migration flows in the long run, since closing the borders cannot be a sustainable solution. As a community of values, EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, equality, tolerance and solidarity for people in need. Losing sight of values and principles in managing the crisis means losing sight of what Europe is supposed to be. Over the last years, the EU has faced growing conflicts on migration issues and the crisis of solidarity between the member states. The main question that arises from this situation is what can be done to sustain and improve the normative framework that underlines the European project, since the management of the crisis would hardly be possible without remaining faithful to the European basic principles and values.
- Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan, Meghan Benton: In search of Common Values amid Large-Scale Immigrant Integration Pressures, Migration Policy Institute (Report, June 2017).
- Judith Sunderland: Letting people drown is not an EU value. (Opinion, 07/04/2017)
- Amnesty International: A Blueprint for despair. Human rights impact of the EU-Turkey deal. (Report, 14/02/2017)
- Kamil Matuszczyk for Open Democracy: Migration crisis in 2017 – challenges for EU solidarity (25/04/2017)
- Amnesty International: Italy: Refugees and migrants in the central Mediterranean, cutting the lifelines. (Public Statement, 22/05/2017)
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