Is Europe facing a refugee crisis? Is it Europe’s crisis?
The answer to both questions is “no,” according to two experts who spoke to News-Decoder this week.
Søren Jessen-Petersen, former Assistant High Commissioner at the UN refugee agency, and Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the agency, said it’s a global crisis and Europe can manage the inflows.
“No, it’s not just Europe’s crisis, and arguably I think that the word ‘crisis’ for what’s happening in Europe may be something we want to question, too,” Edwards said in a panel discussion with students and faculty from academic institutions participating in News-Decoder’s pilot project, including the School Year Abroad program.
The session was exclusively organized for the institutions, but we have extracted some key comments from both discussants in the video above.
“I don’t agree with this being called a European refugee crisis,” Jessen-Petersen said. “I think it’s a political crisis.”
About one million refugees seeking asylum arrived in Europe last year from conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. That compares to the European Union’s population of more than 500 million.
“It is very difficult to understand how one of the most developed regions of the world cannot find the capacity, the means to manage this crisis,” said Jessen-Petersen, who is currently a professor at Johns Hopkins University.
A number of EU countries have tightened their borders, calling into question Europe’s Schengen arrangement for the free flow of people across borders, and extreme right-wing parties calling for curbs on refugees have made electoral gains in some countries.
Edwards noted that almost 600 million international tourists visited Europe last year.
“We aren’t seeing a problem at the moment of Europe being overwhelmed by numbers,” he said. “We’re seeing a political problem of Europe coming to terms with managing the issue.”
Edwards said there has been “an immense reaction” in Europe to the influx of refugees, with some positive developments but also some worrying.
“Some look to border protection rather than refugee protection as their priority,” Edwards said.
“This is a global crisis of which Europe is seeing one element.”