Introduction: The Cyclical Crises of The Common European Asylum System
In 2015-2016, the Schengen common travel area and the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) risked a complete meltdown. The story has been told elsewhere on RefLaw: one million refugees landed in Greece and Italy and then engaged in secondary movements throughout the European Union (EU). In response, unilateral measures negating the very idea of a common space of travel and protection spread like wildfire: “waving” unidentified refugees “through” to neighbouring States, unilateral border closures, competitive devaluations of national asylum systems endangering the integrity of international and EU standards. Some semblance of unity could only be found under the rallying cry of “stemming the flows.”
The EU thus initiated a series of measures aiming to confine refugees in countries outside or on the periphery of the EU. The EU-Turkey statement and “hotspot approach” epitomize this policy. At the same time, the European Commission proposed a reform package centred on three ideas: fighting secondary movements, reinforcing the abovementioned externalisation measures, and introducing a new solidarity mechanism centred on the physical relocation of protection seekers among the EU Member States (EUMS).
Fast-forward to the summer of 2018, and we are again in the midst of a “crisis.” The reform of the CEAS is stalled over the apparently unbridgeable rift between those EUMS requesting more solidarity and those EUMS wanting none of it. Meanwhile, with Mediterranean crossings reduced to pre-2015 levels, EUMS governments are maintaining, introducing or announcing unilateral measures to “stem” imaginary but electorally lucrative migration flows.
Francesco Maiani Editorial Advisory Panel Associate Professor, Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration, University of Lausanne.