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The management of the massive arrival of refugees has shown some of the main problems of the U.E. as the lack of common immigration policy and asylum, but also the commitment to solidarity of much of its civil society.

After five years of armed conflict, the Syrian civil war has caused 270,000 deaths, the destruction of the country and the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the Second World War. More than half of its 23 million people had to leave their homes. Of these, 7.6 million have been forcibly displaced to other areas of the country and 4.8 million outside Syria. Neighbor countries bear most migratory pressure because of this war. At the head, Turkey with 2.5 million Syrian refugees (3% of its population), followed by Lebanon with more than a million (which have increased by 28% its population), Jordan 640,000 (representing 10% of the population), Iraq 250,000 and Egypt 120,000.


In 2015 the war in Syria hardens; the population lost all hope on the end of the conflict; the mass exodus multiplies. The host countries of the wave of refugees, as well as, the international organizations (UNHCR) and aid workers working on the ground are overwhelmed and underfunded. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians converge on the Mediterranean coast with refugees from other places, mainly Afghans, Eritreans and Iraqis. They all escape war, political and religious persecution or simply of hunger and extreme poverty. Almost half are minors. They are seeking a safe destination to save their lives and those of their families, where they find an opportunity to rebuild these lives. Their eyes are on Europe.


They begin to embark on fragile ships and inflatable boats to reach, from the Turkish coast to Greek islands. Seaway between Libya and Italy, although secondary, also increases this transit. Mafias became the desire of refugees to reach Europe by sea in a huge business. Shipwrecks follow one another; 3770 people drowned in 2015 in this desperate escape and 400 in 2016.


Until June 2015, as many refugees as those who came throughout 2014 arrived by sea to Italy, and especially to Greece. From July, figures increased very much. Al end of 2015 more than one million illegal migrants have entered Europe. Most came to the mainland by Greece to try to reach Germany and the Scandinavian countries on the Balkan route, a traumatic journey through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary to Austria. Very few requested asylum in the country of arrival or in the transit countries. The common European asylum system went into crisis.

The chaos is total. The dramatic scenes are repeated every day. The image of the body of the three-year old child Aylan Kurdi, drowned in a Turkish beach on 3 September hits the consciences of Europeans and becomes the symbol of the humanitarian tragedy. Civil society is mobilized demanding the reaction of their leaders. The governments of the E.U. try to agree on emergency measures, deeply divided on how to address this crisis. Only a minimal agreement, absolutely insufficient to resettle refugees 120.000 is achieved, while greater efforts are aimed at strengthening border control and to contain the migratory flow.


After receiving 1.2 million asylum applications Europe begins to close. More than a third of the refugees have requested asylum in Germany, but Hungary (175,000) and Sweden (160,000) received more requests per inhabitant. Far from these figures, Spain received 14,000 requests in early 2016 and has received only 18 of the 8,000 refugees who promised to resettle.


Since last fall, fences are lifted and restrictions imposed at border crossings. First it was Hungary, causing the diversion of the route through Slovenia. Bulgaria also sealed its border with Turkey. Austria established quotas and drafted a bill to restrict the right of asylum and to declare a "state of emergency immigration". Finally, last March, Macedonia closed its border with Greece which represents the final closure of the Balkan route. Thousands of refugees are trapped in Greece, Serbia and Croatia.


This involution is closely related to the rise of xenophobic populism and anti-European in much of Central and Eastern Europe. Germany itself, which has borne the brunt of the crisis, opening its doors to refugees and receiving one million people, has finally restricted its asylum policy because of increasing Islamophobia, the racist attacks and the electoral rise of the extreme right.

On 18 March 2016 the U.E. signed an agreement with Turkey, whereby irregular migrants who arrive from March 20th from that country to Europe, will be returned to Turkey, if not applying for asylum or if this is not accepted or is rejected by an emergency procedure. The European Union undertakes to finance the maintenance of refugees with € 6,000 million over the next three years and to resettle a Syrian refugee in situation of vulnerability for each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey. Turkey also obtained the visa exemption for their citizens traveling in Europe from June and an acceleration of its accession to the Union.


A radical change occurs in European management of the migration crisis. The reception and registration centers must be evacuated to become detention camps. The 50,000 refugees trapped in Greece who arrived before signing the agreement must enroll in the program of relocation to other EU countries, which remains voluntary compliance and so far only 700 refugees have been resettled from the 160,000 that were committed.


In the European Parliament, most of the groups expressed legal and moral doubts about the terms of the agreement, which was also heavily criticized by human rights organizations and UN agencies itself. The Court of Justice of the EU had to endorse a judgment that Community law allows a Member State to send refugees to a third country considered safe, granting this status to Turkey. A state that, although signed the Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951 only grants this category of European citizens and provides an irregular protection to citizens from other countries like Syria (although the community experts consider this protection as "equivalent" to that of refugee). In addition, there are serious doubts that Turkey will end to restrictions on freedoms and human rights abuses have increased in the last two years and that the agreement requires correct to liberalize visa, requirement imposed by Turkey to accept the return of refugees.


The future of the refugees is remarkably uncertain. The future of European construction also is. Maintaining a Europe without borders as area of ​​Freedom, Justice and Security created with the Schengen Agreement is incompatible with the prolongation of border closures and restrictions on the free movement taken in recent months. The opposing views on the crisis and the opposing resistance from narrow national interests have prevented the implementation of a European immigration policy and the development of a common asylum system A system that allows request and obtain asylum in the European Union and not necessarily in one of its member states.


Europe has been overtaken by the greatest humanitarian crisis that has faced in their common history. Migratory pressure, coupled with the effects of the economic crisis and austerity on the populations have spurred xenophobia and anti-Europeanism. But most people are still continue to believe in the need for a more democratic, more social, more solidarity with the world Europe.

European construction must be resumed and completed recovering these founding principles. Corresponds to the citizens and especially the youth, our governments move this majority wish.



Written by Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Instituto Aragonés de Juventud

Published: Wed, 04/05/2016 - 11:15

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