Europe’s Migration Crisis

  • Border closures and a March 2016 deal with Turkey led to a significant decline in arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers by sea to Greece compared to 2015, while boat migration from North Africa to Italy kept pace with previous years. By mid-September, over 290,000 people had made the crossing since the start of 2016, while more than 3,200 died or went missing in the attempt. European Union countries failed to take collective action to share responsibility equitably for asylum seekers or to create safe and legal channels to Europe.

    Over 60 percent of those taking the dangerous journey originate from countries beset by war or generalized violence, or having repressive governments, such as Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The EU continues to emphasize preventing departures and combating smuggling over a coordinated approach based on access to protection and respect for human rights, including through problematic cooperation with Turkey and other transit countries.

    The EU should sustain robust search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean and expand safe and legal channels into the EU. Increased direct resettlement from the countries bordering Syria, notably Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and other refugee-producing countries would benefit people seeking asylum and allow for better screening and vetting thereby protecting national security. EU countries should ensure more equitable responsibility sharing for asylum seekers, and implement common EU standards on reception conditions and asylum procedures.