Dossier: Crossing Borders - Refugee and Asylum Policy in Europe

Dossier: Crossing Borders – Refugee and Asylum Policy in Europe

The current ‘refugee crisis’ represents, above all, a political crisis for Europe as lack of coordinated action that has stretched the Union almost to breaking point. In many countries populist right wing parties have been given a new lease of life with increasing numbers of people turning their backs on an open and liberal society. Our dossier, accompanying our conference “Crossing Borders – Refugee and Asylum Policy in Europe”, is an attempt to see how national differences present themselves and what common ground might still be achievable for a common European asylum and refugee policy.

Video recordings of the conference

Towards a common European Policy

Lesbos (Greece), support for refugees

The migrant crisis poses a major challenge to European solidarity and the functioning of the European Union as an organization. In 2015 alone, more than a million migrants entered the European Union compelling it to urgently develop solutions and mechanisms to resolve the crisis and avert its negative impacts.

Syrians and Iraq refugees arrive at Skala Sykamias Lesvos Greece

The EU needs a proper strategy that allows migrants a legal form of access. The current situation of the camps in and around the EU is unacceptable. The issue of clarifying immigration regulations for the EU must not be put off any longer.

Refugees on a boat crossing the Mediterranean sea, heading from Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, January 29,  2016

Turkey is hosting some 2.7 million Syrian refugees. Only one tenth are in camps and the rest spread around urban areas. Local cultural and religious affinity with them has kept social friction low.

More than 1 million asylum seekers arrived in Europe last year. The situation overwhelmed national governments and EU Institutions alike and further disrupted the relations between Member States.

National perspectives

Mustafa hasn't been to school for four years now, Lebanon

Thousands of Syrians have sought shelter in Lebanon. But having such a precarious status there and no legal recognition many feel their best option is to try entering the EU via the Mediterranean.

Refugees at the border in Gevgelija, Mazedonia (August 24, 2015)

Whilst the refugee crisis has dominated debates in Germany since 2015, it plays a subordinate role in France where the war on Islamist terrorism and tackling the problem with military intervention.

Whilst the French government focuses on military actions in dealing with the refugee crisis, these protestants in Toulouse demand more help for the refugees (September 5, 2015)

In France economic and social problems, terrorism and internal security are viewed as more important than the migrant crisis. Seeing the migrant flows as a result of conflicts in the Arab world they deal with the problem with military assistance.

Migrants at Eastern Railway Station - Keleti, 2015.09.04

During the Slovak parliamentary election campaign even moderate parties adopted anti-immigrant language. But the strategy backfired and far-right politicians entered parliament.

A demonstration supporting the refugees and immigrants during the European migrant crisis in fall 2015. The protest took place in Prague, at the main square (Wenceslas Square, 17. October 2015)

Czech society is polarised by attitudes to refugees. This is absurd given that fact that only 1,156 have applied for asylum in a country of ten million people. Xenophobia and hysteria drive the debate.

Refugees arriving at the airport in Cologne/Bonn (5, October 2015)

As Europeans struggle to deal with the tensions between growing right-wing, xenophobic parties and new refugee and immigrant populations, there is much to be learned from the US immigrant rights movement.


Since the summer of 2015, Germany has been the target country for flows of refugees seeking sanctuary, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The influx of refugees has entirely dominated the political and social debate.


The Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung commissioned a study by Political Capital entitled “Focus on Hungary: Refugees, Asylum and Migration”. The authors of the study analyse the Orbán Government’s rhetoric and policy measures with regard to refugee, asylum and migration issues. 

Member of Greek Red Cross helps an Afghan refugee who has just arrived from Turkey with an inflatable boat in the area of airport of Mytilene, Lesvos Island, Greece

Greece as a key migrant entry point needs extra resources to secure the EU’s external border and provide humanitarian assistance. It's vital to manage the burden sharing and secure a pragmatic agreement with Turkey to stem migrant flows and facilitate returns.

For further reading...

Refugee camp in Idomeni, Greece

Caroline Ausserer spoke with Zhan Chiam, employee at ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), about the recent report of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on LGBTI asylum-seekers and -refugees.


Following peaceful protests against a contested third term of the president, violence has once again escalated in Burundi. Efforts to end the crisis will continue to fail if they ignore the country’s history and its political landscape.


2015 is a hallmark year for migration to the EU. It is the year when the impasses of European migration policy manifested themselves in an explosive fashion. The massive influx of Syrian refugees into European territory resulted in the collapse of the European border and the European political project was once again put into question. The "hot summer of migration" triggered the reshaping of European policy, which nonetheless continues to be trapped in the dilemma of border security versus humanitarianism.

Welcome refugees balloons

The European Union needs a humane refugee policy. Find here the declaration of leading politicians of the German Green party.