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A refugee child at the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, March 7, 2016 (AP photo by Visar Kryeziu).

Europe’s Refugee Response Undermines International Norms—and the EU

Monday, March 7, 2016

The past year has seen the emergence of the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the end of World War II, with almost 1.3 million asylum-seekers arriving in 2015, mostly on boats from Turkey or North Africa. The vast majority have been Syrians fleeing the devastating collapse of their country, though they have been joined by people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and a range of other troubled countries. Those seeking protection have arrived in a divided, disorganized and panicked continent. The inadequacy of Europe’s response has jeopardized not only international refugee norms but, in the recent words of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, “the very idea of Europe” itself.

Europe has dealt with refugees on a large scale before. Only 20 years ago, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to war in Yugoslavia and, soon after, the conflict in Kosovo, resulting in the internal and external displacement of over 3 million people. The plight of these forced migrants generated limited but effective cooperation among European countries. Temporary asylum was provided until peace returned to the Balkans. ...

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