What are Germany and Europe doing to help people fleeing? “A significant contribution,” says migration researcher Franck Düvell from the University of Osnabrück, referring to the more than one million refugees taken in in 2023. Despite this praise, however, he is dissatisfied with the overall balance. This also applies to the other experts who are presenting the “Global Flight Report 2024” with him in Berlin.

“The current debates on refugees focus on deterrence measures,” says Düvell, criticising the compromise on how to deal with refugees that was reached after years of disputes within the European Union (EU).

The Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, which was planned for 2,800 people, became a symbol of a failed refugee policy. In the worst times, however, 20,000 men, women and children were housed there. They lived in catastrophic hygienic and health conditions.

According to the European Union’s new asylum reform, asylum seekers will in future be checked and registered at the EU’s external borders. They will have to wait up to twelve weeks in reception camps until a decision is made on their asylum application. Düvell’s prediction: “We will have a lot of Morias.”

Petra Bendel from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg also fears that images of overcrowded, inhumane camps, especially for children and families, could be repeated in the future: “Whether the prevailing grievances in the numerous reception facilities at the external borders will develop into efficient procedures remains to be seen in implementation.”

Her colleague Düvell sees it the same way. The refugee researcher considers agreements to accept refugees with predominantly non-European states to be highly problematic. The attitude behind this is: “They shouldn’t stay with us, they should go to Rwanda or Tunisia or Albania, please.”

In addition, agreements with authoritarian states would undermine democratization processes in these countries, the expert criticizes: “Europe is becoming heavily dependent on despots.” The former EU member state Great Britain is currently arresting the first migrants in order to deport them to Rwanda in July. By the end of the year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government plans to fly 5,700 people to the African country.

Migration experts are both relieved and concerned about the way war refugees from Ukraine are being treated. Russia’s attack on its neighboring country triggered the largest refugee movement since the Second World War, says Franck Düvell. But things could get even worse: “If we don’t prevent Russia from escalating the war further or even winning it, we in the West would actually have to expect millions more refugees.”

The reception of around one million people in Germany has so far gone quite well for two reasons. Firstly, the federal government has refrained from centralised accommodation in camps, and secondly, civil society has helped massively. “Otherwise, the reception system would have collapsed in spring 2022,” Düvell suspects.

The EU has also functioned well and quickly created legal certainty. The EU member states agreed to extend the temporary protection for people who fled Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine until March 2025. Düvell calls for a follow-up perspective to be developed quickly: “Otherwise we will soon have a huge problem in the EU.”

A problem that has remained unresolved for decades is the situation in the Middle East, which has been further exacerbated by the terrorist attack by the Islamist Hamas on Israel on October 7, 2023 and the subsequent war in the Gaza Strip. Düvell calls the displaced people in the Gaza area refugees who cannot flee: “Because they cannot leave the Gaza Strip – neither to Israel nor to Egypt.” The country has massively upgraded its border control facilities, walls and fences. “Egypt and other Arab states are part of the problem,” says the migration expert in view of the seemingly hopeless situation in which the people in the region find themselves.

Benjamin Etzold from the Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies (bicc) speaks of a “worst-case scenario” with regard to the Palestinians living in the Gaza region. Hundreds of thousands are stateless there, and estimates even put the total number of stateless Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank at 1.4 million. With dramatic consequences, says the expert: “Statelessness is produced through politics, and the children of refugees are not given any papers either.”

In Gaza, you can see the consequences of managing the situation of refugees for decades, says Etzold. “We see the same thing in Pakistan with Afghan refugees who have been living there in a very precarious situation for 40 years and have not been granted permanent access to rights and citizenship.”

In order to improve the situation of refugees worldwide, the Bonn-based conflict researcher expects more commitment from the EU and the German government. Etzold criticizes the focus on reducing access to Europe. “When it comes to the pact on migration and asylum, I see very, very few approaches to global solutions at the EU level.”

Author: Marcel Fürstenau

The original of this article “Europe’s asylum policy at a dead end?” comes from Deutsche Welle.