Europe’s Refugee Problem

The main negotiations for a deal on Syrian refugees between the EU and Turkey have now concluded, though many obstacles remain in actually implementing it. For one, it might be illegal.

The gist of the EU deal is trying to convince Turkey to take back many of the Syrian refugees, a prospect Turkey, already dealing with millions of Syrians, is less than eager to take. Another wrinkle, one of the most prominent proposals so far has been criticised by the UN as being probably illegal.

Meanwhile, the EU is also offering money to Greece and North African countries to keep their refugees in Greece and their would-be refugees on the southern side of the Mediterranean and accept those deported from Europe more quickly, respectively.

But negotiations are also happening with the EU countries, as these newer alliances are increasingly seen as too slow to stop the problem. Austria, for example, unwilling to manage an influx, is forging deals with Balkan countries to keep refugees away from Austria, leading, for example, to clashes on the Macedonian border and the closure of that border to the Balkans.

Meanwhile, the integration programs that do exist across European and Middle Eastern host countries are in many cases succeeding, but only in small-scale experiments. Many of these programs, from cultural training in Norway to Arabic museum tours in Berlin, a jobs program in Jordan, and the integration of Syrian doctors into Germany’s medical system, need to now be scaled up. Will this be enough and soon enough? We will have to see.

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