Europe’s failed refugee and asylum policy

By Lawrence Wilde

The 9th September brought shocking scenes of a huge blaze raging through the Moira Migrant Camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, prompting outrage at the way refugees are treated as they try to seek refuge in Europe. Despite the camp being designed to house fewer than 3,000, roughly 13,000 refugees were left without shelter. This disaster has again highlighted the continued failure of the West to take proper action and give safe asylum to the refugees who seek shelter in the EU.

Over the past 5/6 years, continued conflict in the Middle East has resulted in hundreds of thousands fleeing towards Europe, many risking their lives across the Mediterranean. What has become clear in that time is Europe is dragging its feet and not acting fast enough to provide safe shelter for those seeking asylum. As the crisis has intensified, bureaucracy and political indecisiveness have led to overcrowding in camps like on Lesbos, and a general failure to meet the needs of those looking to seek asylum in Europe.

Although the EU’s Dublin regulation aims to use a fixed criteria to determine which member state would take responsibility for those seeking asylum in the EU. This regulation has proved ineffective and has led to those nation-states on the EU’s border shouldering most of the weight.  This ineffective way of working has led to the overcrowding in camps in Greece and with Covid-19 dominating the political spheres, there has been little in the way of reform of asylum policy in Europe.

Moreover, the biggest cost throughout this whole crisis is the human one. The Moira camp, like many other camps, has been infiltrated by Covid-19, rendering many migrants ill and without adequate health care. This solidifies my argument that Asylum policy in Europe has been failing those it aims to protect. Due to the pandemic, it is safe to say that a  European-wide economic slowdown is just a few months away, therefore the plight of those refugees risking their lives to get to Europe is only going to intensify. We’ve seen over the past decade how varied different countries’ attitudes have been towards immigration and asylum policy. From the so-called “open door” policy adopted by Germany a few years ago, to the arguably hostile atmosphere emanating from the UK government’s attempts at reform.

To truly serve and protect those seeking asylum in Europe, countries need to stand behind a united policy that isn’t hindered by bureaucracy and which doesn’t lay the burden on those few states that sit on the EU’s border. Only then can we prevent tragedies like the Moira fire from happening in the future and uphold the rights of asylum seekers.