Reforming Europe's refugee policies: Austrian-Danish plan will not work

Thursday, 11 October 2018
Researchers' work published externally

On 4 October, the Austrian Minister of the Interior and the Danish Minister for Integration presented a new "vision paper" for reforming European countries’ policies for asylum and protection. The core idea is to shift the policy focus away from assisting migrants who have the resources and are physically strong enough to migrate and apply for asylum in Europe, to providing more effective protection to “the most vulnerable migrants” in countries of first reception near conflict areas. This is to be done primarily through more economic assistance for regions of origin and stricter enforcement of the external EU border, partly through the establishment of "disembarkation platforms" in Africa where migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea would be taken and from where it would not be possible to apply for protection in Europe. After (and, importantly, only after) “irregular migration is reduced and public trust [is] restored”, there should be “enhanced EU-wide resettlement efforts targeting the most vulnerable refugees”, directly from conflict regions to the EU.

We certainly need to discuss new ideas to fix Europe’s current dysfunctional asylum and protection system. While it is hard to disagree with some of the plan’s broad goals – who would not want to help the most vulnerable refugees? – the Austrian-Danish proposal is problematic for a range of reasons, including the specific way it limits opportunities for individuals to apply for asylum in Europe and because of questions about its overall feasibility.

This article by Martin Ruhs from the European University Institute's Migration Policy Centre and Mikkel Barslund from CEPS was published by Euronews on October 11 2018.

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Euronews also published an article by Mikkel Barslund on June 18 2018, "Mediterranean migrants: Aquarius docks, but moral high ground rests on sand".