20th Mar 2018


Facing the EU's migrant crisis

  • "There should be an index ranking member states according to their ability to absorb migrants" (Photo: noborder network)

Almost every day, new reports emerge detailing the skyrocketing numbers of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. In the first three months of 2015, more than 31,500 people have made the crossing to Italy and Greece alone, with a death toll of over 1800.

Despite appeals from leaders worldwide for a solution to this humanitarian crisis, the European Union’s response has so far been woefully inadequate. While most EU member states have agreed that something needs to be done, when required to submit their own resources to help, those same states protest on the grounds that their particular migrant “burden” is already too large.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • EU leaders will meet Thursday (23 April) for an extraordinary summit to discuss the migration crisis in the Mediterranean. (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

It is time for the European Union to take on the responsibility for solving the migration challenges it faces. Member states never want to concede additional powers to the EU, but in this case individual states have interests that are too diverse, too contradictory, and too tied up in domestic politics to address the problem effectively at the national level.

The EU already has a framework in place for processing asylum-seeking migrants, but it is ill-equipped to handle an influx of migrants like the one currently experienced by the member states bordering the Mediterranean. The Dublin Regulation stipulates that responsibility for incoming EU asylum-seekers be placed in the hands of the first “safe” country in which the migrant sets foot.

Unsurprisingly, this framework places a severe load on the countries at Europe’s southern border, as they are in the unfortunate geographic position of being the first country of arrival for the vast majority of incoming migrants.

If the Dublin Regulation holds, then most of landlocked Europe - the member states that are often much better-equipped to deal with an influx of migrants than Italy, Greece, and Spain- are completely off the hook for dealing with a problem with implications not limited to those states.

The EU desperately needs a new, comprehensive strategy for managing its migrant flows. First, instead of requiring the countries of first entry to bear full responsibility for incoming migrants, the EU should operate processing and reception centres in each EU member state along the bloc’s external borders.

Once a migrant reaches an EU territory, regardless of which member state that is, the EU should take over the handling of processing and registration to ensure that migrants are treated humanely and given equal consideration.

An EU-wide effort of this sort would also prevent individual countries from failing to register or process migrants, as Italy and Greece have been accused of doing in the past to circumvent the Dublin Regulation that requires them to accommodate all of the migrants that are first registered on their shores.

An index to rank member states

In order to solve the biggest flaw in the current EU framework, any new system also needs to address the distribution of migrants as well as their processing. An index which ranks member states according to their ability to absorb migrants, and applies a quota based on this ranking, would be a significant step forward.

An index of this type would ultimately allocate a maximum number of migrants that a member state could be obligated to accept each year, and would take into account not only the population of the receiving country, but other factors that would play into the member states’ ability to absorb and support asylum-seekers.

One component that has not been considered in previous proposals to distribute migrants across the EU, but which should be included in any real efforts at resettlement, is unemployment rate.

Member states with high unemployment will not only be unable to support a large influx of asylum-seekers, but the corresponding likelihood of anti-migrant sentiment in the native-born population will be high, making integration difficult. On the other hand, member states with robust economies and large populations should be able to absorb proportionately higher numbers of migrants without concern.

If the EU took on the responsibility for establishing and maintaining a system like the one detailed here, no individual member state would have a basis for claiming that they take on a greater burden of migrants than any other.

The handling of the Dublin Regulation across EU member states, along with the growing crisis in the Mediterranean, has showcased in a painful fashion that there is no perfect system. Without a new strategy for managing European migration, there is no doubt that the current situation will only continue to worsen.

Any policy changes will invariably have critics and detractors, but the migration crisis in the Mediterranean is a golden opportunity for the EU to create a better system for managing its increasingly-diverse population, and to have a real, positive impact on human lives.

Sarah Bedenbaugh is assistant director of Transatlantic Relations at the Washington-based Atlantic Council

'Denial' - is meat the new climate change?

The European Parliament's agriculture committee meets on Tuesday, with speculation that the EPP will vote against a report on the EU plant protein plan if it mentions switching away from animals to plant-based diets.

Moria refugee camp is no place for people

Two years on from the highly-controversial EU-Turkey deal, many thousands of refugees are still trapped on Greek islands. One of them offers an open invitation to EU leaders to see their inhospitable conditions at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos.

Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted Russia's illegal annexation.

Column / Brussels Bytes

EU e-privacy proposal risks breaking 'Internet of Things'

EU policymakers need to clarify that the e-privacy should not apply to most Internet of Things devices. The current proposal require explicit user consent in all cases - which is not practical.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction