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21 July 2016


Women are evacuated from a French migrant camp in Paris on June 29, 2016. Photo: Matthieu Alexandre/AFP/Getty Images

This Is Europe’s Last Chance to Fix Its Refugee Policy

United States - The European Union’s piecemeal solutions are coming apart. Only a surge of financial and political creativity can avoid a catastrophe, writes financier George Soros in Foreign Policy.

The refugee crisis was already leading to the slow disintegration of the EU. Then, on June 23, it contributed to an even greater calamity — Brexit. Both of these crises have reinforced xenophobic, nationalist movements across the continent. They will try to win a series of key votes in the coming year — including national elections in France, the Netherlands, and Germany in 2017, a referendum in Hungary on EU refugee policy on Oct. 2, a rerun of the Austrian presidential election on the same day, and a constitutional referendum in Italy in October or November of this year.

Rather than uniting to resist this threat, EU member states have become increasingly unwilling to cooperate with one another. They pursue self-serving, discordant migration policies, often to the detriment of their neighbors. In these circumstances, a comprehensive and coherent European asylum policy is not possible in the short term, despite the efforts of the EU’s governing body, the European Commission. The trust needed for cooperation is lacking. It will have to be rebuilt through a long and laborious process.

This is unfortunate, because a comprehensive policy ought to remain the highest priority for European leaders; the union cannot survive without it. The refugee crisis is not a one-off event; it augurs a period of higher migration pressures for the foreseeable future, due to a variety of causes including demographic and economic imbalances between Europe and Africa, unending conflicts in the broader region, and climate change. Beggar-thy-neighbor migration policies, such as building border fences, will not only further fragment the union; they also seriously damage European economies and subvert global human rights standards.

What would a comprehensive approach look like? It would establish a guaranteed target of at least 300,000 refugees each year who would be securely resettled directly to Europe from the Middle East — a total that hopefully would be matched by countries elsewhere in the world. That target should be large enough to persuade genuine asylum-seekers not to risk their lives by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, especially if reaching Europe by irregular means would disqualify them from being considered genuine asylum-seekers.

This could serve as the basis for Europe to provide sufficient funds for major refugee-hosting countries outside Europe and establish processing centers in those countries; create a potent EU border and coast guard; set common standards for processing and integrating asylum-seekers (and for returning those who do not qualify); and renegotiate the Dublin III Regulation in order to more fairly share the asylum burden across the EU.

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Ethiopian migrants shelter from the heat in Fantahero, Djibouti. They withstand harsh conditions and harsh treatment on the journey to Saudi Arabia. Photo: Lex Niarchos

The Dangerous Route of Ethiopian Migrants

Djibouti - The other day, on the outskirts of Fantahero, a small village in the desert of northern Djibouti, Sebhatou Mellis was sheltering from a-hundred-and-four-degree heat in the shade of an acacia tree, writes Nicholas Niarchos for The New Yorker.

Mellis, who is twenty-six and has the rangy build of a runner, was about a thousand miles away from his home, in the impoverished Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. There, he and his family had taken a government loan to help improve his farm, tried to invest it, and failed, he told me. “At the end, the money was finished, and all the people began to insult us and say that we took the money from the government and used it badly,” he said.

Mellis had come to Fantahero four days earlier, walking and hitching rides through the Danakil Desert with about a dozen other Tigrayans, a journey that took them about three weeks. Mellis’s ultimate destination, he hopes, will be Saudi Arabia, where, if he’s lucky, he’ll be able to work illegally.

To get there, he will have to cross the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which separates the Middle East from the Horn of Africa, and navigate his way through war-torn Yemen. “I left to repay my debts, not to die,” he said. “But if I die, at least I will liberate myself from poverty.”

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Migration in the News


  • The Guardian reported that despite taking the dangerous journey by land and by sea from Iraq to Europe, some refugees decide to return home after realizing life in the EU does not meet their expectations.

  • Reuters and BBC reported that MSF found the bodies of 21 women and one man in a rubber dinghy adrift near the Libyan coast on Wednesday.

  • Reuters reported that Italian police have broken up a criminal ring which smuggled at least 100 migrants from the northern Italian city of Milan to other European countries in one of the biggest operations of its kind.

  • UN reported comments by UN Deputy SG Jan Eliasson at a Global Forum on Migration & Development meeting in New York welcoming IOM’s impending entry to the UN.

Trending on the Internet


  • The Wall Street Journal reported warnings by German officials that unaccompanied minors arriving in the country are especially prone to crime or radicalization. The warnings followed an axe attack by an Afghan teenager on train passengers in southern Germany.

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