Europe's refugee conundrums

"Asylum policy is the Achilles heel of Europe"

Horst Seehofer, German Interior Minister, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, April, 2019


"The worst refugee crisis since the Second World War"

Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, The Telegraph, Aug, 2015


Recent trends (interactive maps of IOM)   Help for refugees   Refugee routes in Europe


Links to pieces concerning contemporary refugees generally, trans-Mediterranean refugees, migrant smuggling and regulations within Europe. 



Migrants escorted by police officers

near Dobova, Slovenia, in October, 2015

One million migrants and refugees entered

Europe by sea and land in 2015 in “the

largest movement of people on the

Continent since World War II.”

(New York Times, 23 December, 2015)

         Guardian, June 15, 2018                                    Economist, Nov. 3, 2018


"Cyprus is saturated" with refugees Guardian, (11 Dec. 2018)


UN migration compact is a "sitting duck" ( Economist, 8 December, 2018 )

"European governments in melt-down over an inoffensive" pact; "symbolism over toothlessness"

"It has become impossible to have a level-headed conversation about managing migration in Europe."


Hardline stance of Italian interior minister impedes EU asylum reform efforts   Guardian, (11 June 2018)

Matteo Salvini's refusal to let the rescue ship Aquarius land 600 migrants in Italy comes in the wake of deadlocked attempts to reform EU asylum policies. With member states in disagreement on refugee burden-sharing, "Europe's capitals are exploring alternatives."  Germany plans to unilaterally tighten its asylum system. Austria is "working informally with Denmark and Netherlands" on plans for "camps for rejected asylum seekers outside the EU."


Africans crossing the Colla della Scala  Guardian, (16 Jan 2018)


EU council president Tusk to suggest scrapping refugee quotas

Guardian, (11 December, 2017)

He said [already] in October that mandatory quotas had put member states

in almost permanent conflict. Tusk will [now] call on EU governments to take

charge, rather than leaving Brussels to set the pace in managing refugee policy.

"Only member states are able to tackle the crisis effectively."


Jean-Claude Juncker: Migrants 'need legal ways to reach Europe'

Deutsche Welle (27 November, 2017)

If those who come -generally speaking, the poor and needy- are unable to enter the house of Europe through the front door, they'll keep making their way in through the back windows.


The Scientist Who Escaped Aleppo NPR, (11 July, 2017)

In Syria, security forces report called for his imprisonment. Refugee camp in Turkey: "physically alive but psychologically dead." Borrowed $5-7 thousand to pay smugglers for trip Turkey to Greece..."My family is now with me in Leipzig, Germany...for the first time in my life, I feel like a real scientist."


European court of justice does not require issuance of humanitarian visas to Syrian refugees  Economist, (11 March, 2017 )

"For now the smugglers' business model is safe."


Stranded on the doorstep of Europe Los Angeles Times, (5 March, 2017)

"I have to keep trying. I'll never go back to Afghanistan. Sometime in the future, when I sit in a warm place, I'll think back on this and remember everything."

 -Tariq Stanikzay, formerly a shopkeeper at US military outpost in Afghanistan, who

   has tried six times to get into the EU from Serbia, and who now lives in a metal

   shed behind the main train station in Belgrade.


The Calais "Jungle" New York Times, (28 Sept, 2016)


Bono: Hope is not lost, but is getting impatient. We should be too.

New York Times, (12 April, 2016)

Refugees need more humanitarian support. For host countries migrants

could also be a productive benefit. Shore up development assistance

to sending countries before they spiral into anarchy.


Turkey-EU reach tentative deal on refugees  Guardian, (8 March, 2016)

Turkey accepts one refugee returned from Greece for each one taken directly from Turkey to Europe, as quid pro quo for more funding, visa liberalization for Turks visiting Europe, and accelerated consideration of EU membership.


"Forming a more orderly queue"   Economist,  (6 Feb., 2016 )

1) Support allowing refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon to work, 2) Organized registration and processing of claims in Greek "hot spots," (3) more authorized direct resettlement from Turkey to richer countries, (4) deals with source countries to facilitate return movement. 


Schengen border-free dream at an end?

So far, no, except at a few borders on main refugee routes. BBC (26 Jan. 2016)

Schengen open border agreement partially suspended

after Paris attacks:  Re-erection of internal EU borders?

BBC 15 Nov. 2015 / Wash. Post, Tages-Anzeiger (German) 16 Nov. 2015


More Afghans to Europe, esp. Germany and Switzerland (Nov. 2015)

Recent Taliban military successes in Kunduz, concerns about curtailment of Balkan transit routes, and acceleration of smuggling operations (also exporting opium from Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer) are said to have helped sharply increase the influx of Afghans to Europe. In Germany, a leading destination, some 30 thousand Afghan asylum-seekers arrived in October 2015, roughly equaling the nine month total from January to September. In Greece some 60 thousand arrived in October, double the September number, and second only to the entry of Syrians. German officials have warned that “not all” Afghan arrivees can expect to stay there. It is

also noted that Germany has contributed 2 billion Euros to “civilian projects” in Afghanistan and 54 German soldiers have been killed there since 2001, “the

biggest toll of any German deployment abroad since 1945.
    In the first week of November, some 650 Afghans entered Switzerland: three quarters seeking asylum by entering through its eastern borders, and one-quarter having been registered (but not accepted for asylum elsewhere in Europe). Afghans were also nearly three quarters of all asylum seekers arriving at those eastern checkpoints. According to one Swiss border agent, migrants hear through personal networks of delays in entering Germany, and head to Switzerland instead. The Canton of St. Gallen has emergency accommodations for 1,000 (fully occupied, however, as are currently most other currently available facilities in Switzerland). Recently, about 2 thousand Afghans per day have been reaching Germany.
  Schweiz am Sonntag, “Flüchtlinge kommen via Deutschland in die Schweiz” (Nov. 7)
  New York Times, “Afghans arriving in Germany…” (Nov. 10)
  Tages Woche (Switz.) “ Flüchtlinge aus Afghanistan…” (Nov. 10)


Economist, 24 Oct, 2015: "Refugee realpolitik" 

“ Angela Merkel's response to the migrant crisis is less emotional, and more risky, than it looks...less strategic vision than piecemeal reaction... Europe's most powerful politician seems destined to be shaped by events rather than help shape them...a leader who will chance her way through crises... The Merkel paradox: that such a rational politician can be so hard to predict.”



Greek islands likely to have migrants “no longer just passing through"

BBC, 24 Oct., 2015  "Inside Europe"

About 1,500 migrants per day have been arriving at the Greek island Samos, near Turkey. “Those describing themselves as Syrian...wait for up to three days to obtain

registration papers, and then head to Athens.” Others wait an average of 10 days in an “old military base” where over 1000 are housed in space intended for 200. “Those who can afford it stay in hotels.” The crowded conditions are contributing to poor sanitation, lack of cleaning facilities, “hygiene issues”  and “health problems.” To reduce the migrant flow through Balkans, the EU plans to support  processing and screening asylum seekers in Italy and Greece. Samos and four other Greek islands plan permanent reception centres by the end of November, and officials there are “worried about” the impacts “when vast numbers of migrants are no longer just passing through.”


Economist, 26 Sept, 2015: "Point taken, Mr. Orban" 

Officials in Europe “struggle to gainsay” points made about mismanagement –“Greece merrily nods hundreds hundreds of thousands of refugees up to Europe”…Germany apparently "opens its doors one day" and tightens its borders the next… plans to redistribute 120,000 asylum-seekers start to "look irrelevant"…Spurred by such “awkward questions,” a “grand bargain may be in offing: strengthen the EU’s external borders…in exchange for smoother functioning” of the Schengen zone and “burden-sharing” of refugees. But, "the biggest task of all” remains: integrating the many already arrived migrants “who Mr. Orban says will undermine the civilizational roots of Europe. Here, if not elsewhere, Europeans must prove Hungary’s prime minister wrong.”


"Let refugees fly to Europe"

Alexander Betts, NY Times, op ed, 25 Sept, 2015)


Migrants to Europe, photographed by Giulio Piscitelli

(slide show, NY Times, 23 Sept, 2015)


Hungarian border town mayor, in video, encourages migrants in Serbia (enroute to Austria, Germany) to travel via Croatia and Slovenia instead of Hungary (NY Times 19 Sept. 2015).


Economist, 19 Sept, 2015: Shooting Schengen.

Alterations in border restrictions can indicate wider change, as with the Berlin Blockade in 1948 and the  the Austrian-Hungarian border-opening in 1989. New border controls by Germany and Austria could now presage the demise of the Schengen free-travel area in Europe. More..


Rushing the Channel Tunnel  (NY Times, 30 July, 2015)

Refugee influx to Turkey  (NY Times, 23 Sep, 2014)


See also here:

Migrant smuggling

Contemporary refugee movements

Contemporary migration processes

Climate migration

Contemporary migration travel

Migration in the news

                                 This page last updated 15-August, 2019