Europe’s Migration Crisis

  • Border restrictions in the Western Balkans and a deal with Turkey led to a significant decline in arrivals by sea to Greece of asylum seekers and other migrants, while boat migration from North Africa to Italy remains steady. By March, over 28,000 people had made the crossing in 2017, while more than 900 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. The European Commission failed to hold to account member states that violate EU asylum standards.

    Over 55 percent of those taking the dangerous journey originate from countries beset by war or generalized violence, or having repressive governments, such as Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Eritrea, and Iraq. Thousands of asylum seekers, including vulnerable people, are stranded in abysmal conditions on the Greek islands and along the Western Balkan route, with limited access to asylum. 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, Libya, 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. EU states should step up refugee resettlement from countries bordering Syria, notably Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and other refugee-producing countries, to reduce the need for dangerous journeys, facilitate integration and allow for screening and more orderly processing. EU countries should ensure more equitable responsibility sharing for asylum seekers, and enforce common EU standards on reception conditions and asylum procedures.