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Migrant crisis highlights EU failure to tackle the thorny issue of asylum

Like many Europeans, I’m horrified by the death of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian who washed up on the beaches of Turkey while trying to escape to Greece. Aylan was one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned trying to reach Greece, including Aylan’s five-year-old brother. 

The death of such innocent people is a testament to Europe’s broken approach to the current refugee crisis.

First of all, we need to dispel the rumours that the refugees are just coming to Europe to claim benefits. On August 26, 71 Syrian refugees were found dead in the back of a truck in Austria. The very same day, 200 refugees died off Libya in the Mediterranean Sea.

Is there anyone out there who honestly thinks that these people are going to such risks just to sit on the dole? No. They’re fleeing their homes because they’re terrified for themselves and their families.

So far in 2015, Frontex (the EU’s border agency) estimates that 340,000 refugees have tried to flee into Europe with the majority being from Syria and Afghanistan (and fleeing brutal civil wars) or Eritrea, a dictatorship known as the North Korea of the Red Sea. Trying to deter such migrants through draconian punishments is ineffective as they have already placed themselves in mortal danger just by trying to reach Europe.

The current refugee crisis is the result of Europe’s successive failure to agree on a common asylum policy. The current system requiring refugees to claim asylum in the first country they arrive in places an excessive burden on southern European countries. What is needed is a European wide policy where the asylum system is consistent, transparent and shared equally among the EU’s member states.

Many refugees are highly skilled in everything from medicine to engineering. Allowing some leeway for refugees to work while their applications are being processed would greatly reduce their dependency on humanitarian aid. Some nations should be justly commended for their efforts: Germany is taking in 800,000 refugees to help with the crisis while despite its tiny population, Sweden is still willing to take in more than 95,000 people.

However, it is not only up to our governments to address the crisis. As citizens, we are still capable of helping. Organisations like the Red Cross and Medecins San Frontieres are helping countless refugees and our donations can greatly improve their work.

Niall McNelis




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