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«Eurasian Journal of Social Sciences, 3(4), 2015, 37-45 DOI: 10.15604/ejss.2015.03.04.004 EURASIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES ...»

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Eurasian Journal of Social Sciences, 3(4), 2015, 37-45

DOI: 10.15604/ejss.2015.03.04.004




Esztella Varga

Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary. Email: esztella.varga@gmail.com


The European refugee problem has grown dramatically in the last few months, putting a considerable amount of pressure on the European countries. Not only are they facing migrants from North Africa, but from the Middle East as well.In March 2011 the Arab Spring has reached Syria, causing a huge number of Syrians to flee their country and seek asylum in Turkey, and possibly going further to the EU. The refugees who fled Syria as well as those who are leaving North Africa (mostly the failed state of Libya) are aiming to reach European soil, but Italy, Greece or Turkey is not ready to handle the amount of refugees. The cooperation of the Mediterranean countries and Europe has not been able to slow down the flow of refugees, and the Mediterranean and Aegean seas have become dangerous routes for the desperate migrants who attempt the sea-crossing. In my analysis I would like to highlight the role of the so-called elements of „soft power‟ in the way of dealing with the refugee problem. According to my hypothesis, the issue can‟t be successfully addressed using only the means of the „soft power‟.

No real solution for the crisis has been offered yet, and I would like to give case studies of the different ways of dealing with the problem – inside (Greece, Italy) and outside (Turkey) of the European Union.

Keywords: European Union, Turkey, Refugees, Crisis

1. Introduction Regulation of the right of the refugees and asylum seekers was introduced by the 1951 Geneva Convention (amended by the 1967 New York Protocol). Most of the countries in my analysis are part of the Geneva Convention (countries of the EU and Turkey), however, the rest of them have not joined the Convention. The Convention has been signed by hundred and forty seven countries (European Council of Refugees and Exiles, 2015). Therefore legislative background of the countries in the analysis is different.

According to the Geneva Convention (1951), the definition of a refugee is as follows:

someone “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is out-side the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”. While asylum seekers as defined assomeone who claims being a refugee but his/her claim hasn‟t been accepted yet. They are not granted refugee status and thus protection by the Convention until the state decides whether they qualify. Those countries which are not part of the Geneva Convention, may recognize the asylum seekers as refugees, but they are not obliged to apply the rules of the Convention in order to protect them.

–  –  –

2. The Regulation of the European Union A common approach has been laid down by the Convention and the EU has designed its common asylum policy in accordance with the Convention. The EU has begun introducing common European regulations toward refugees and asylum seekers in 1999, creating four

directives regarding refugees:

 “the Qualification Directive 2011/95/EU on standards for the qualification of non-EU nationals and stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection;

 the Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection;

 the Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection;

 theDublin Regulation (EU) 604/2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national (national of a non-member country) or stateless person (Eurostat, 2015).

The common European framework was established when the European Asylum System (CEAS) was introduced in 2004, focusing on three main pillars which are (i) harmonizing standards of protection, (ii) effective practical cooperation, and (iii) increased responsibility amongst EU members.

In order to strengthen the cooperation and the increase the financial responsibility, the European Refugee Fund was established. To further the European regulation, in 2011 the

former directives were revised, introducing 6 new directives:

 The revised Asylum Procedures Directive aims at fairer, quicker and better quality asylum decisions;

 The revised Reception Conditions Directive ensures that there are humane material reception conditions (such as housing) for asylum seekers across the EU;

 The revised Qualification Directive clarifies the grounds for granting international protection and therefore will make asylum decisions more robust;

 The revised Dublin Regulation enhances the protection of asylum seekers during the process of establishing the State responsible for examining the application;

 The revised EURODAC Regulation will allow law enforcement access to the EU database of the fingerprints of asylum seekers (European Commission, 2015).

The revised directives are to ensure that the refugees are treated within the European Union equally and fairly in an open system. However, experience shows that certain member states (mainly in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe) might be lacking the necessary means to implement these regulations, and they tend to resort to complementary means of border protection instead of applying the rules of the Convention. This results in a less than effective asylum system, which is below international standard. While the EU legislation applies to every member country the way to implement the regulations is decided by each country, thus resulting in different handling of the asylum seekers. The different internal migration policies of the countries as well as the nationality of the applicant may also contribute to the different treatment they may experience.

3. Refugee Problem in the EU

In October 2013, Italy introduced the operation Mare Nostrum, aiming to help the migrants to reach the shores safely and to decrease the threat of the sea. The operation has saved over 100,000 lives (UNHCR, 2015a). It was supported by the EU with 1.8 million EUR, and Frontex (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, established in 2004) has assisted Italy (the only host

38 Esztella Varga / Eurasian Journal of Social Sciences, 3(4), 2015, 37-45

of the refugees) with two other operations, Hermes and Aeneas. Hermes manly focuses on the shores of Italy, protecting EU‟s external borders, while Aeneas (Frontex operation as well) turns the focus to the land, the migration flow to Italy through Turkey and Greece.

Until the end May, 2015, almost 90,000 (it is well over 100,000 by summer) migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean Sea and most of them arrived in Italy and Greece (46,500 and 42,000), the rest of them aimed for Spain or Malta. Almost 2,000 refugees have lost their lives on the way to Europe (UN, 2015). Parallel to this, the number of those seeking refugee status raised to nearly 300,000. The top five countries in the EU to receive such applications are Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France and Italy (UNHCR, 2015c). If we look at each member state carefully, we can find that not only these five countries, but many others experienced the increasing number of asylum application, but there are others, who received less than one year ago. The third quarter of the refugees is under the age of 35, mainly 18-30, but a significant percentage is those who are under 18.

On 9th July 2015, the informal meeting of the Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs of the EU in Luxemburg has brought an agreement. They discussed the issue of resettling 20,000 refugees inside the EU, each country has offered some contribution. Aid came from outside of the EU as well, non-EU member states (Switzerland, Norway and Lichtenstein) also offered their help. However, the relocation of the remaining 40,000 refugees (the initial decision has been about 60,000 resettlements) has not been solved and the Ministers decided to revisit the issue. The Minister of Luxemburg, Jean Asselborn emphasized the fact that the secondary migration is also a pressing issue and that the EU should discourage the migrants to move from a member country to another right after arrival (Informal JHA Council, 2015).

In April 2014 the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund has been established, thus the EU adopted the commitment, and representing itself with 3 billion EUR (between 2014 and

2020) in order to provide help to the refugees.

The Southern EU members are not the only ones who are under pressure by the increasing flow of legal and illegal migrants: On the Eastern border Hungary as well as Croatia is facing a problem. The number of people apprehended crossing the Serbia-Hungary border alone has risen by more than 2.500% since 2010 (from 2,370 to 60,602) (Amnesty International, 2015a).

The reason behind the increasing numbers is the fact that the migrants may think that crossing the Mediterranean Sea by makeshift boats is more dangerous than crossing the borders over land. They set out from Turkey and through Greece and the Balkans try to reach the Eastern border of the EU. Unfortunately this is not entirely true because many of the refugees, who have chosen this path, have described extreme difficulties, being in the complete power of their smugglers and being at risk during the entire journey.

1 The Ukraine crisis has also increased the pressure on the EU. Since the beginning of the conflict more than 275,000 people were forced to leave their homes, and around 172,000 has applied for refugee status in one of the neighboring countries (many of them are EU members) as well as around 168,000 people who applied in the Russian Federation (Amnesty International, 2015b).

3.1. Events Resulting Migrants Flow to the European Union

Most of the refugees who are seeking refugee status in the European Union have come from Africa (mainly from Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia), or the Middle Eastern (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan). In December 2013 violence erupted in South Sudan, resulting 1.3 million people who had to leave their homes and resettle internally. There are around 45,000 people who were forced to leave their country and seek refugee status in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda or SouthSudan. This only makes the refugee problem in the area worst, since there were already a large number of refugees coming from Sudan. While the refugees from Tunisia and Egypt leave from 1 Since the Ukraine crisis has not effect on the EU as much as the Syrian crisis, this paper will not discuss this issue in details.

–  –  –

their home countries, asylum-seekers from Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea depart to Europe from Libya. Their destinations are Italy and Spain (UNHCR, 2015d).

The refugees from Sudan and many Syrians try to find refugee status in Egypt.

Unfortunately instability in Egypt affects also the asylum policies as well as the means how well they can implement them. After the eruption of the rivalry of the different militia and the fighting in Libya in 2014, many refugees thought to risk crossing the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach the shores of the EU. In many cases that includes the services of smugglers as well.

Since law and order has completely collapsed in the country, new smuggling routes have been established, the provide services to refugees from the Sub-Saharan as well as Middle-Eastern region as well. Since Libya refused to cooperate with UNHCR or any other international actors in accordance with the refugees, the crisis deepened. Since no cooperation is shown on the Libyan side, internationally there is nothing to be done about the smuggling network. This results in ironical events, since even the authorities of Europe know the identity of the smugglers, the leaders of the network, without the help of the Libyan authorities no legal step or arrests could be done.

Since many Greek islands (e.g. Lesbos, Chios, Kalymnos and Kos) are located just a few kilometers away from the Turkish coasts, some migrant take this road and enter one of the Greek islands instead of risking the longer sea travel. This road is not risk-free however, many refugees had to be rescued from the sea to prevent them dying, and almost 1,900 died on their way to Europe.

4. Refugee Policy in Lebanon

With a population of 4.5 million, Lebanon is facing a huge challenge with the refugee flow. The number of expected refugees reached 1.3 million by the beginning of early 2015 that is 26% of the population of the country. However, Lebanon did not adopt any official refugee policy nor did establish refugee camps. Instead, it announced a visa requirement and refused to register any more refugees. The country is not part of the Geneva Convention. Since the savings the refugees bring with themselves are limited, it depletes fast, causing economic and social vulnerability both to the migrants themselves and to the society as well. Adding to the refugees from Syria, a migration flow started from Iraq towards Lebanon with increasing number of refugees (Pierini and Hackerbroich, 2015).

The question of the nationality of the new born babies is a question the international law has yet to solve. Since they were born as Syrians (more than 5,700 Syrian infants were born since 2011 in Lebanon) but 72% of them don‟t possess birth certificate. Therefore they can‟t be recognized as Syrian citizens, nor can they act as Lebanese. The solution of the matter can‟t be 2 expected until the civil war in ended in Syria.

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