Franziska Telschow (Heinrich Böll Foundation)
The world is currently experiencing the worst refugee humanitarian crisis since the World War II. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria in 2011, up to 3 million people have left the country; in 2013, the EU Member States have set, under pressure from the United Nations, a quota of 5 000 asylum seekers. These sharply contrasting figures suggest that there is a huge disproportion and that the present restrained and ineffective immigration policy of the EU Member States can’t be sustained any longer.
Migration is a complex historical phenomenon that is inevitable due to numerous reasons. The voluntarily conditioned reasons include better living conditions, better work or family reunification. However, natural disasters or political upheavals lead directly to forced migration. African states have been encountering the afore-mentioned problems more and more frequently and that is the main reason many of their citizens chose to move, in search of a better life, to Europe or North America.
In April 2014, the EU-Africa Summit took place where migration and mobility featured prominently as the main topics for discussion. The key political figures agreed on the fact that FRONTEX, the EU border control agency, should develop a strategic plan for facilitating a greater acceptance of legal migrants into the Union. The crucial problem is indeed the alarming number of illegal immigrants who can’t, owing to the EU’s current attitude, enter the EU territory legally. The downside of this problem is, of course, a possible growth of extremist populism in some EU countries, encouraged by a wave of anti-immigration sentiments across the continent.
Generally speaking, the Union is not ready for such an influx of migrants. One of the ensuing pitfalls is the issue of integration which is not dealt with equally seriously in all EU Member States. Some see integration as a complete assimilation of the migrant, while others, for the time being still a minority, believe that integration should be seen in the context of multiculturalism where individual cultures are capable of co-existing with one another while preserving their own identity. Since the ‘Old Continent’ is one of the popular destinations for both legal and illegal migration, it is more than obvious that the EU will sooner rather than later be forced to start speaking with one voice on this crucial issue.
(The study can be downloaded here)