EU: Have quotas completely hijacked the debate about refugee crisis?

We are witnessing more border controls in the EU as the EU stalls on refugee quotas. The discussion is ongoing, so no immediate action. It pretty much looks like a continued mess to me. How do you read the situation? It seems that the quotas debate has completely hijacked the discussion and I would say it it very problematic that we might not able to move with other initiatives because of quotas. Read few comments.

Ilvija Bruge, Researcher, Latvian Institute of International Affairs

Yes, quotas have come to dominate the EU’s attempts on making any decisions regarding refugee crisis. It seems like the easy way out of the situation – focusing on a rather unimportant detail instead of attempting to solve the actual problem. It is rather clear that the refugee crisis solution should be seen in the context of the lack of solidarity among the EU members rather than just calculating and voluntarily agreeing the appropriate quotas for each country. Especially, taking into account that the suggested quotas are nowhere close to the actual number of refugees that need to be resettled.

Focusing on quotas seems to be a good opportunity for member states to avoid taking actual, often unpopular measures and create appropriate infrastructure for hosting the refugees. It also shifts the public view away from the conflict resolution efforts in Middle East. Discussion on whether each individual country should accept a particular amount of refugees is, mildly saying, fruitless as the initial quotas have already been supplemented by additional quotas.

Unfortunately, in Latvia, like in other EU member states where support for resettlement of refugees is dramatically low, the refugee crisis is used by populist parties in order to raise their own political capital. Delay of action, along with maintenance of the negative attitude towards the refugees in the society through spread of misinformation and fear, and focus on failures of the EU rather than national governments is therefore in their interests.

Unless the EU implements some sort of deterrence measures (such as a threat to cut the Structural Funds for the Eastern European members), the decision-making on the issue will keep stalling. On the other hand, such measures might be seen as undemocratic and stir up further discontent in member states, which, in turn, might result in further anti-EU sentiment.

David Fernández Rojo, PhD Student, Assistant in the Research Team “European Integration”, University of Deusto

Undoubtedly, this is a critical moment for the EU. In my opinion, there is a need for an emergency and a long term plan. The emergency plan is the distribution of refugees (we certainly need more effective ways i.e.: fair reception quotas or tradable refugee quotas) . The relocation plan should also be taken to the UN level, asking the international community to participate in the plan.

In the long term, it is clear that the Dublin system no longer works. The first safe country of arrival principle does not hold, a flexible quota system is needed. In this regard, EASO’s mission should be upgraded and expanded to include more operational support and a decisive role in facing emergencies, as well as building long term institutional capacity for asylum policy and practice.

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