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The “Wall of Welcome” in front of European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The “Wall of Welcome” in front of European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Sept. 14, 2015 (Photo by Wiktor Dabkowski for dpa via AP Images).

Has the World Learned the Lessons of the 2015 Refugee Crisis?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In 2015, more than 1 million people, mostly from Syria but also Eritrea, Sudan and other countries wracked by conflict and economic turmoil, found their way to Europe in search of asylum, where they struggled to rebuild their lives, often in the face of xenophobia and exclusion. Those were the lucky ones. Thousands of other refugees and migrants died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, a tragic waste of human life that was symbolized in a photograph of the lifeless body of a four-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, which washed up on the shore of a beach in Greece.

2015 was a signal moment for the Global North in its dealings with refugees, when the appalling circumstances of asylum-seekers were starkly laid out for everyone to see. But while some borders closed and immigration restrictions were imposed in many parts of Europe, there were other, more positive signs, and a willingness to think anew about the treatment of refugees. Some citizens who had once bayed for stricter immigration policies urged their governments to admit more refugees. Many others joined civil society groups to assist arriving refugees, sometimes even opening their own homes to provide shelter. ...

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