Date / Time
Thursday June 15
16 h 30 - 19 h 30
Since 2011, the number of refugees fleeing war zones has increased considerably, to the extent that the refugee crisis is commonly referred to as the “European migrant crisis”. Not one European Council meeting, not one Summit goes by without discussing the flow of asylum seekers into Europe. Every official speech, every debate is marked by tragic images of capsized boats in the Mediterranean.
While it is difficult to accuse Europe of indifference, it is clear that the talk has not translated into action and that the decisions taken have not met with much success. What progress has been made in distributing asylum seekers between all the Member States? What has been the outcome of the relocation scheme proposed by the European Commission? Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are disappointing and the results fall short of expectations. The one-step-at-a-time mindset seems to have prevailed over action. Who is to blame? The Member States, which are all guilty of passing the buck and attempting to shift the “burden” of admitting and integrating refugees onto their neighbours. This lack of commitment from the Member States, their reluctance to receive refugees, even prompted the European Commission to consider, for a while, a policy of “flexible solidarity”. The term drew such scorn from civil society that it has been dropped in favour of “effective solidarity”. Terminology issues apart, current arrangements do not make things any easier, since the Dublin Convention puts the onus for processing asylum claims on the first country of entry, and therefore primarily on countries in southern Europe (Greece, Italy) and the Balkans.
While asylum seekers continue to flee war-torn countries, Europe has chosen to “outsource” the refugee problem by signing a deal with Turkey in March 2016 (despite the latter’s drift towards autocracy since summer 2016) and forging ties with “transit” countries like Niger and Sudan (the Khartoum Process), which is nevertheless responsible for population movements within its own borders.
Europe can no longer just turn a blind eye to the crisis or shift the responsibility to neighbouring countries. How can we deal with the refugee crisis in a humane yet realistic manner? What kind of reception should we be giving to men, women and children? How can we integrate them into our societies? What kind of employment integration programmes should we be setting up? What solutions have already been put into place in some Member States, either by civil society or the government? At a time when elections are being held in several countries (including France and Germany), when support for national retrenchment is strong and nationalistic sentiment is running high, it is important that Europe makes its voice heard and that it wins back the trust of an increasingly Eurosceptic and – on occasion – outright Europhobic civil society. Ceri and Confrontations Europe intend to highlight the commitments made by Member States such as Germany and Sweden, even if their initial enthusiasm has dimmed somewhat. And the policies introduced by the European Union to manage a crisis that is far from being resolved. And to propose possible solutions.
Confrontations Europe has also decided to give asylum seekers a voice, whether their application has already been processed or they are waiting for documents that will open the door to a whole new life. To listen to civil society stakeholders in the different European countries and encourage them to talk to public policy-makers in order to explore courses of action and outline solutions. The conference must address the long-, medium- and short-term issues surrounding the management of the refugee crisis.
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