At the international Forum on the reception and integration of refugees in the EU, held in Barcelona on the 3 May 2016, almost all questions relating to the various aspects of the evolving phenomenon were raised. This phenomenon is here to stay and becomes commonplace, asthis is not a temporary, seasonal situation but a deeply rooted tendency that requires a collective, coherent European response. For, even if the civil war in Syria were to be over tomorrow, the flows of refugees, asylum-seekers, migrants would not run dry as if by magic. Because, Syria constitutes one of the countries of origin of thousands of migrants. Yet, we must not oversee the case of other Asian countries, the Middle East, Africa, which, for a variety of reasons ranging from economic shocks (e.g. many African countries) to the total collapse of the institutional framework (e.g. Libya), “feed” the migration flows into the old continent. And let us not forget the new aspects of the phenomenon, such as ‘climate migration’ or ‘survival migration’, according to Alexander Betts, author and researcher.
The EU is therefore faced with a multi-factorial phenomenon that cannot be addressed through obsolete, demonstrably failed tools, such as the Dublin Convention, neither by unilateral actions such as the closure of borders, as, other than being inwardoriented, this tendency will negatively affect the credibility of European institutions. As long as the decision-making bodies of the EU are unable to convince/force Members of the Visegrad Group not to close their borders to refugees/migrants, this is a loss not only for the tormented refugees but also for the entire EU that finds itself enclosed within a multipolar environment characterised by volatility and mobility.
In this context, the refugee phenomenon is revealing a number of long-standing structural weaknesses and deficiencies which render the EU unattractive and unreliable, in particular towards young people, the very future of the European project and its reason of existence.
A little too late, the European Commission and the European Council have moved towards a radical reform of the current system towards a common European policy and a single asylum system based on a fair sharing of responsibility. There may be certain countries, local and regional authorities which find themselves at the forefront of welcoming the influx of refugees/migrants, yet the stake is common: it is a European one, requiring coordinated action at all levels of governance, i.e.European, national, local.
The new common policy should be drawn up without delay, in a holistic way rather than in a fragmented manner, on the basis of solidarity and shared responsibilities. In this same context, the contribution of regional and local authorities should also be taken into account — namely of those actors which have the experience and intervene immediately, often in a “cloudy” legal framework and without the necessary resources. However, their contribution is crucial. Which is why the ongoing review of the European policy must integrate the specificities, for example of those regions and municipalities which are responsible for receiving thousands of refugees who, nevertheless, do not wish to remain there. These local and regional authorities provide the refugees/migrants with public services, healthcare, food, housing, without having access to European funding instruments, placing too great a burden to their infrastructure. These are crucial points to be taken into consideration in the new, long-term policy that will make the EU institutions accountable, also making the refugee/migration phenomenon one of the strong points of the European societies.
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