Home Politics The EU is stuck with its one-size-fits-all refugee policy

The EU is stuck with its one-size-fits-all refugee policy

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LONDON, Oct 9 (Reuters Breakingviews) – The European Union’s population is expected to fall from a peak of 453 million in 2026 to 420 million by the end of the century. At that point, its working-age population will have fallen from 59% to 50% of the total, according to Eurostat.

Such projections may seem problematic rather than catastrophic. However, the EU statistical agency assumes a cumulative net migration of 98 million inhabitants by 2100. Without them, the bloc’s population would reach around 320 million. Unless there is an influx of young people from Africa and Asia, the EU will become increasingly old, weak and ineffective.

Few European leaders will say the same. Instead, the EU is focused on stopping irregular migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, national governments want to ensure that few of those who undertake the dangerous journey end up in their own countries. This was abundantly clear at last week’s meeting. informal EU summit in Spain.

To be fair, every EU country has procedures for dealing with migrants arriving through legal channels. And those crossing the border illegally include both asylum seekers and people hoping for a better life. But politicians fail to explain how Europe can benefit if it also welcomes, distributes and integrates refugees fleeing persecution.

Instead, the EU is striking deals with countries in North Africa and the Middle East to curb the flow of asylum seekers. The first of these, which has so far cost almost 10 billion euros, was with Turkey. Since then, the EU has struck a pact with Libya, is trying to strike a similar deal with Tunisia, and is considering a deal with Egypt.

One problem with these agreements is that some regimes, like Tunisia And Libya, have been criticized for treating migrants poorly. Turning a blind eye to this situation undermines the EU’s claim to uphold universal values ​​and the rule of law.

Another problem is that these so-called transit countries can extract more money or other concessions from the EU because they know it is desperate. The number of asylum seekers crossing from Tunisia to the small Italian island of Lampedusa has jumped as Tunis pushed the EU to abandon the conditions attached to the billion euros it had promised.


The EU has detected 330,000 irregular crossings across its borders last year – about half via the Mediterranean and almost all the rest from Western Balkan countries. It also spotted 71,000 exits to the UK. That’s a far cry from the peak of the Syrian crisis in 2015, when around 1.8 million refugees crossed EU borders. However, the trend is increasing. Irregular border crossings increased by 64% last year and are at 250,000 so far this year.

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EU countries such as Germany, Austria and Poland have recently imposed border controls with other member states, undermining the EU’s supposedly borderless Schengen area. They also bicker. Mediterranean states accuse their northern neighbors of failing to help, while countries like Germany say frontline states are failing to respect agreement to process asylum seekers where they first arrive times and instead let them move north.

The EU and its members are desperate to show they have the situation under control by next year’s European Parliament elections. The extreme right Alternative for Germany The party is growing and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who has promised to crack down on illegal immigration, must show voters she can keep her promises. Meanwhile, French politicians concerned that far-right leader Marine Le Pen could win the next presidential election in 2027.

The EU is preparing a package to tackle this problem. THE master piece It’s a plan to spread out asylum seekers so that front-line states, like Italy, aren’t overwhelmed. If some countries do not want to welcome migrants, they can pay 20,000 euros per person to those who wish to do so. The hope is that Mediterranean countries will process asylum seekers when they arrive – and that the EU’s internal borders will remain open.

But analysts like Camino Mortera-Martinez of the Center for European Reform think tank doubt the deal will last because Poland and Hungary oppose it. The EU’s first attempt at burden-sharing failed during the Syrian refugee crisis after several states boycotted it.

Hence the EU’s desperation to stop the flow of irregular migrants. Any plan to distribute asylum seekers across the EU will be more likely to work if fewer refugees arrive.


Even if the EU approach works for now, it is not a long-term solution. Conflict and climate change are driving people from their homes. The World Bank estimates that global warming could displace 143 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America by 2050. Although most will remain in or near their home countries, many of those coming from Africa and western Asia will head to Europe .

Although there is no magic solution, the EU could take three major steps to better manage the situation. The first is to help countries in Africa and West Asia by promoting investments in renewable energy, high-quality infrastructure and education. Their populations will then be less inclined to undertake perilous journeys to Europe.

Second, the EU could open more routes for refugees to arrive legally in the bloc, thereby satisfying their legal obligations to them before turning to other migrants. While this would not reduce the overall numbers, the process would be more controlled.

Third, the EU could offer transit states more money or other incentives to humanely treat asylum seekers who stop crossing the Mediterranean. Such agreements will be necessary whatever other policies are adopted.

To convince voters, European politicians will need to emphasize how refugees can contribute to their societies – and that money invested in poor countries is also an investment in Europe’s future. Otherwise, the bloc appears doomed to suffer from sluggish growth, internal conflict and growing nationalism.

Follow @Hugodixon on

Editing by Peter Thal Larsen, Katrina Hamlin and Thomas Shum

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence and freedom from bias.

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