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The definition of a refugee and the global refugee crisis

Discuss about the Tackling the Refugee Crisis System.

The term ‘refugee’ refers to those individuals who were forced to leave their countries in order to escape prosecution, war or a natural disaster as well as for political, religious or economic reasons (Dictionary.cambridge.org, 2018). The world is facing a significant refugee crisis in the recent times. As of 2016, there were 65.6 million people were forced away from their homes due to conflict and persecution, out of which 22.5 million are refugees, and more than half of them are under the age of 18 years. Additionally, there are 10 million people without any national identity and without access to basic human rights. 55 % of these refugees come from 3 countries (Syria: 5.5 million, Afghanistan 2.5 million and South Sudan 1.4 million) (Un.org, 2018). According to WHO reports, there are about 1 billion migrants today, out of which 250 million are international migrants and 763 internal migrants, and 65 million forced away from home. 86% of these displaced people are being hosted by the developing countries (who.int, 2018).

The European Refugee Crisis started in 2015, when a massive numbers of people started to move to the European Union, travelling across Mediterranean or Southeast Europe. These people mostly comprised of asylum seekers, and also consisted of some economic migrants management. The population also had few hostile agents, such as members from radical terrorist organizations. The majority of the refugees were from countries of Muslim majority from the regions of South Asia, West Asia and Africa. The majority of the refugees were also Muslim (mostly Sunni) and few non-Muslim communities. Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq contributed to the maximum number of refugees. This period also saw the highest number of people being forcibly displaced from their homes, since the World War II, with 59.5 million people by the end of 2014 being displaced. This marked an increase of 40%, since 2011 (Boehler & Peçanha, 2015). The asylum seekers themselves faced mortal peril while travelling to the European countries through hostile terrains and the sea, and very often onboard overcrowded vessels, while trying to avoid the coast guards of the European border countries. Many have died trying to reach Europe from these conflict zones. The Migrants reach Europe either via land (34,900) or sea (1,011,700). The migrants usually head towards Greece first, taking a short voyage from Turkey to the island of Ko’s, Chios, Lesvos and Samos often in frail vessels. Due to such perilous situations, more than 3,770 immigrants died in the Mediterranean by 2015. Most of these deaths occurred while crossing from Africa to Italy or from Turkey to Greece. On 2015, a boat carrying 800 people capsized near the coast of Libya, thereby killing them (bbc.com, 2018). The migration crisis in Europe triggered when the number of asylum seekers to Europe peaked 1.26 million on 2015, and a reported 2,257 people lost their lives. Germany had the highest number of asylum applications, of about 476,000 applications, while Hungary has 117,130 applications, by the end of December 2015 (Europarl.europa.eu, 2018). Even though Germany had the highest number of asylum seekers, Hungary hosted the highest number of the asylum seekers, in proportion to their population, despite that it has closed borders with Croatia to prevent the flow of refugees in October 2015. There were about 1,800 refugee seekers per 100,000 of the local population of Hungary. Sweden was also close in the ratio, with 1,667 asylum seekers per 100,000 of their local population, while for Germany it was 60 applications per 100,000 and the EU average was approximately 260 per 100,000 EU citizens. The tension escalated when the majority of the immigrants first started arriving in the EU bordering countries like Hungary, Greece and Italy (bbc.com, 2016; Holmes & Castañeda, 2016).

The European Refugee Crisis: background and challenges

To tackle the crisis situation, European Union has implemented several strategies, in order to maximize the number of asylum seekers to be hosted by European Countries. Over the last few years, the migration policy of Europe saw significant advancements in the form of European Agenda on Migration which was implemented by the European Commission on May, 2015. The policy was designed to focus on three key areas: Outside the EU, At the EU border and Inside the EU. Outside the EU, the policies were aimed to assist the refugees worldwide, helping the refugees to resettle in the EU and also help to address the root cause of irregular migration with origin and transit countries. AT the borders of EU, the policies focused on tripling the presence of EU at the seafront to save more lives and also to take down the trafficking networks (which often puts human lives in grave peril), manage the borders in a better and more effective way, creating ‘hotspots’ for the refugees in Greece and Italy, and help to identify and register every arrival with the asylum procedure and also with return and admission procedures. Within the EU borders, the policies were aimed to relocate the refugees to other EU member states and also to simplify and harmonize the asylum systems (Cini, 2016). The main objectives of the EU policies to address the migrant crisis were:

  • Saving Human Lives: By increasing the capacity to perform search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean sea and also to stop the criminal networks of human traffickers. Tripling the resourced allowed the EU to save about 400,000 lives between 2015 to 2016, and more than 2000 smugglers and traffickers and 375 vessels were caught in the same period.
  • Addressing the main cause of migration: working with key countries like Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal in order to reduce the transit flow through the Sahara, at the same time supporting self employment in the transit zones and setting up six centers for migrants to assist vulnerable groups, provide hands on support and also to tackle the problems of smuggling and trafficking of humans.
  • Reducing the uncontrolled flow of migrants: Providing legal ways for the asylum seekers to enter EU, and prevent illegal immigration. The EU and Turkey made an agreement, according to which Turkey can return those migrants who did not apply for asylum or who’s application has been rejected, and have consequently travelled to Greece to enter EU. Additionally, every Syrian, who were returned to Turkey, but have not travelled to Greece in an irregular way, will be given asylum to EU. This helped the EU to resettle about 7807 Syrian refugees, by July 2017. Support was also given to Greece and Italy to set up hotspots to assist the governments of the countries to better manage the influx of immigrants to their borders.
  • Safeguarding borders: Launching additional force on the European Border and in Coast Guard duties to protect the common external borders and address the security risks due to the migration. More than 1500 officers were deployed in the EU member states at the external borders in addition to the 100,000 border guards.
  • Ensuring safe and legal passages for refugee seekers to enter the EU, to ensure they do not have to risk their lives by depending on the traffickers and smugglers. EU also offered resettlement programs to facilitate the transfer of 22,500 people from outside EU.
  • Solidarity at home and abroad: Allocating a total budget of 17.7 billion Euros to deal with the migration crisis between 2015-2017, with 10.3 billion planned to be spent outside EU, including 2.7 billion on humanitarian aid, 0.6 billion on Trust Fund for Syria and 2.4 billion for Emergency Fund for Africa.

Due to the massive migration of people into Europe, several different challenges were faced by the hosting countries and the European Union. One of the biggest challenges is the economic impact on a long term. Hosting the large number of refugees is an economic investment of the host countries, and for countries which are already dealing with economic problems, hosting the refugees becomes a natural challenge. In these circumstances, the possible long term benefits of hosting the refugees might not be enough to justify the investments related to linguistic, economic and psychological support of the refugees management. Additionally, several European countries are even afraid on how the massive influx of the refugees can affect their culture and politics. The differences in the religious beliefs, languages and ethnicities further reduce the openness of the residents of the hosting countries towards the refugees (Tremblay, 2015). Another significant challenge faced by the EU was the tendency of ‘asylum shopping by the asylum seekers. This is a situation where the asylum seekers will apply for asylum in several different countries, or trying to seek asylum in a particular country after transiting through other intermediate countries, in the intention of getting the ‘best’ offer, and capitalize on a perceived better standards of reception and social security assistance (ec.europa.eu, 2018). This prompted the EU countries to adopt policies that can prevent asylum shopping among the refugees, and ensure the country where they initially reach to seek asylum to take the first responsibility towards their admission (Barigazzi, 2016). The residents of the hosting countries have also shown concerns about the increase of the proportion of the immigrants which are particularly high in countries like Hungary and Sweden, and have seen a growth by 1.5 and 1.3 percent in 2015 and 2016 respectively. A large number of those concerned believe that the refugees escaping conflict zones like Syria and Iraq pose a serious security threat to their countries, and believe that their migration can increase the risks of terrorism in their countries. Such attitudes can also be linked towards the religious backgrounds of most of the refugees, and the perceptions of the residents of the hosting countries on them. 40% of the residents from European countries like Greece, Italy, Hungary, and Poland consider that including such a large number of immigrants can make their countries worse places to live for them and the future generations (Stokes, 2016). Such concerns are further increased due to the reports of terrorist organizations like ISIS utilizing the refugee crisis situation and EU’s refugee intake policies to infiltrate Europe (Gutteridge, 2018; Greenhill, 2016).

EU strategies for managing the refugee crisis

Conclusion

Refugee crisis is a concern that is seeing a global increase, since the World War II. The Problems are accelerated by various forms of sociopolitical unrest around the world. The European refugee crisis was triggered by a huge influx of immigrants and asylum seekers coming from the conflict zones of Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan. Social and political unrest have displaced millions of residents from these countries who often took grave risks to travel to the nearest safe countries, often defending on ‘irregular’ approaches of using smugglers and human traffickers to get them across the EU borders. This placed their lives at risks, with thousands of deaths every year due to accidents. Moreover, a massive influx of asylum seekers in the bordering countries also put significant challenges for them to provide accommodation and economic support. EU’s policies on migration aimed to address these problems by ensuring all member states take responsibility to take in as many refugees as possible, and ensuring only legal and proper way of application for asylum, at the same time attempting to prevent illegal as well as asylum shopping behaviors and therefore mis-utilisation of their humanitarian approach. However, significant concern remains regarding the inclusion of the refugees on the economy as well as the societies of the hosting countries, particularly, concerns regarding the national and public security.

References:

 Dictionary.cambridge.org. (2018). refugee Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. Dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/refugee

who.int. (2018). Refugee and migrant health. World Health Organization. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://www.who.int/migrants/en/

Boehler, P., & Peçanha, S. (2015). The Global Refugee Crisis, Region by Region. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/06/09/world/migrants-global-refugee-crisis-mediterranean-ukraine-syria-rohingya-malaysia-iraq.html

bbc.com. (2018). EU migration: Crisis in seven charts. BBC News. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911

Europarl.europa.eu. (2018). EU migrant crisis: facts and figures | News | European Parliament. Europarl.europa.eu. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20170629STO78630/eu-migrant-crisis-facts-and-figures

Publications.europa.eu. (2017). The EU and the migration crisis. Publications.europa.eu. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://publications.europa.eu/webpub/com/factsheets/migration-crisis/en/

Tremblay. E. (2015). Effects of the Massive Migration of Refugees in Europe | NewsActivist. Newsactivist.com. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://newsactivist.com/en/news-summary/planetary-challenge-fall-2015/effects-massive-migration-refugees-europe

ec.europa.eu. (2018). Asylum shopping - Migration and Home Affairs - European Commission. Migration and Home Affairs - European Commission. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/content/asylum-shopping_en

Barigazzi, J. (2016). EU aims to stop ‘asylum shopping’. POLITICO. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-aims-to-stop-asylum-shopping-refugee-crisis/

Stokes, B. (2016). The Immigration Crisis Is Tearing Europe Apart. Foreign Policy. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/22/the-immigration-crisis-is-tearing-europe-apart/

Greenhill, K. M. (2016). Open arms behind barred doors: fear, hypocrisy and policy schizophrenia in the european migration crisis. European Law Journal, 22(3), 317-332.

Gutteridge, N. (2018). Rise of EUROPEAN jihadis: EU admits ISIS is exploiting refugee crisis to infiltrate Europe. Express.co.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/658508/EU-migrant-crisis-Islamic-State-ISIS-refugees-Syria-Greece-Italy-terror-Paris-attacks

Holmes, S. M., & Castañeda, H. (2016). Representing the “European refugee crisis” in Germany and beyond: Deservingness and difference, life and death. American Ethnologist, 43(1), 12-24.

Cini, M. (2016). European union politics. Oxford University Press.

Un.org. (2018). Refugees. Un.org. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/refugees/

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