It has been five years since the EU migrant crisis began. Despite the EU declaring the crisis over in 2019, a recent fire at a Greek migrant camp has brought the issue back into focus. While the headlines have been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, people have continued to risk their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean (albeit in greatly reduced numbers compared to 2015). There remains no legal asylum route into Europe, the EU has scaled back its sea rescue operations, and talks on how refugees should be ‘distributed’ by European countries have so far failed to reach agreement.

What do our readers think? To coincide with the launch of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union, we spoke to 100 young Germans in a series of focus groups about their hopes and fears for Europe. A majority of the young people we spoke to spontaneously named the EU’s approach to migration, asylum, and refugees as one their most pressing concerns. Many questioned what values the EU stands for, given that migrants continue to die in the Mediterranean. Several of the young people said, during our focus groups, that they view sea rescue operations as a moral obligation and urgently demand solutions from politicians.

To get a response, we spoke to the EU Commissioner responsible, Ylva Johansson, about the extent to which the EU is fulfilling its obligations towards refugees and what policy is planned for the future.

Was the migrant crisis a betrayal of EU values? Five years since the crisis began, how should we judge Europe’s record on migration and asylum? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: Bigstock © Anjo Kan
Editorially independent content supported by: The Federal Foreign Office / Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. See our FAQ for more details.


68 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Любомир

    Accepting illegal migrants is a betrayal of EU values. EU stands for “EUROPEAN union”. The EU institutions’ primary job should be to protect the interests of European citizens and taxpayers. Start doing that some more, and stop accommodating illegal aliens.

    • avatar
      Martin

      are you one of them?

    • avatar
      Любомир

      I am an European and a tax paying citizen of the EU.

  2. avatar
    The King

    Well actually Europe is a continent with many nations with different cultures and languages, we are not some type of camp for illegal migrants that seek for a better life and than abuse our system. So we are not obliged to take anyone else. What rather Europe do is help those not well developed countries to be developed, but not taking everyone in and turning Europe to third world.

  3. avatar
    George

    Allowing illegal immigration does betray EU values.
    Now we should think about border control with Germanistan, as they can do whatever they want to their country, but they should have to deal/live with it themselves.

  4. avatar
    Constance

    Yes, it’s a disgrace how some countries in particular have behaved. I’m talking the Polands and the Hungarys that love profiting from EU funds but then don’t accept human beings that had to flee from literal ISIS…

    • avatar
      Ian

      So the Moroccans, Algerians, Tunysians, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and sub-Saharan Africans that form up to 90% of the immigration waves “sold” by Turkey to the EU in exchange for billions of Euros, are in fact refugees fleeing from ISIS. Interesting perspective.

  5. avatar
    Panayiotis

    Turkey after EU permission invade north Syria making 11 million refugees, but you are not angry with Turkey, you are only angry with Syrians

  6. avatar
    Franco

    Which EU values ? Do you joking?

  7. avatar
    Bernard

    This statement is too general, the nuance is completely missing.
    First, there is a difference between refugees and economic migrants. I think we have a moral duty to help refugees (especially given the Judeo / Christian European values ​​that are used as an argument by some, read the Gospel of Luke 10: 25-37 first).
    In 1956 hundreds of thousands of Hungarians fled to Western Europe, they were received and helped. During the civil war in Yugoslavia (not a member of the EU at the time), hundreds of thousands fled to Europe, were received and helped. Helping refugees is a moral duty.
    It is a bit different with economic migrants. Decades ago, Jan Tinbergen, a Dutch economist and Nobel Prize winner said of the global difference in prosperity: “If we don’t bring them our prosperity, they will come and collect it.” And that’s what is happening now. If we want to stem the flow of economic migrants, it seems to me that we need to address a number of things:
    * A European ‘green-card’ system, so that people from outside the EU have the opportunity to work (temporarily or for a longer period) within the European Union. This opens a legal migration route for economic migrants, giving people at least a chance to strengthen their own lives, that of their families and the economy of the EU.
    * Bringing prosperity to countries where the majority are too poor to live a decent life. This also has advantages for ‘us’. When people have something to ‘lose’, they are generally less prone to extremism, prosperous countries are, in general, more stable, this prevents wars and other man-made disasters.
    Can Europe do this alone? No. But we can start with it. Maybe someday others will follow suit.
    Finally, something strikes me. Northwestern Europe has pumped billions of euros into the countries of Central Europe. We did / do this out of solidarity. We want every European to live in prosperity. What surprises me are the fierce reactions from Central Europe to the influx of refugees. Refugees are not fleeing because they can get a better job elsewhere, but because bombs are raining in their home country. And of course, even within the EU, the largest shoulders bear the heaviest burdens. But why do some from central Europe want to receive aid through EU subsidies, but do they deny aid to people who are much worse off?

    • avatar
      Vivian

      refugees should be helped, but only refugees.

    • avatar
      Bernard

      Then we agree on that.. 😉 And as it is a European issue, not only an issue of the countries of arrival, this burden should be shared between all members, according to the economic and demographic capacity of each member state.
      But do you think Europe should allow people from outside the EU to work (temporally) in the EU (with a strict policy to remove illegal migrants, of course), in order to make sure that we can reduce the influx of economic migrants a little bit and there is an alternative to the illegal, life-threatening and degrading crossing of the Mediterranean?

    • avatar
      Michael

      Central Europe also includes Germany, which bankrupted itself attempting to conquer the world and commit genocide, and then had its debt forgiven and on top of that received hundreds of millions of dollars in Marshall aid to make it prosperous again, only to become one of the most miserly and unforgiving debt collectors in the European Union, constantly wagging their accusing fingers at Greece and Spain for the heinous historical irresponsibility of buying too many houses. 😛 Europe has issues, Bert. 👽

    • avatar
      Bernard

      who’s Bert? 😉 I understand your point, not meaning I necessarily agree. But does that mean that the idea of bringing prosperity to nations, stimulating trade, make sure that people can save money to buy a car or other luxury goods, will be beneficial to both ‘them’ and ‘us’?

    • avatar
      Michael

      It means that while, of course, Germany is right that it is vital to spend and manage resources responsibly, and obviously Spain and Greece need to reform, it has lost sight of the forest for the trees – that Spain and Greece are not merely debtors, they are supposed to be friends. A strictly punitive approach alienates people rather than incentivizing change, and it damages and weakens the European Union, leaving it vulnerable to hostile actors. There are historical lessons from the Treaty of Versailles that, ironically, Germany seems to be one of the few countries not to have learned. When you’ve got the IMF telling you, “that’s cold, man, even for me”, it might be time to ease up a bit. 😛
      Bert is an internet meme reference. 😜

    • avatar
      Bernard

      Friends and money it’s the worst of combinations.. But I agree, if you want change, don’t bring a stick.

    • avatar
      Seán

      Do people sincerely think Germany was attempting to conquer the world?

  8. avatar
    Vivian

    Nope. Almost all of them are economic migrants abusing asylum policy.

  9. avatar
    Lefteris

    On every boat we see that the vast majority running from the “war” are male immigrants between 18-40. Firstly if the “army-age” males run from the war they are deserters and not refugees. Secondly if the males flee who exactly is fighting the war in their country??

    • avatar
      Bernard

      Soo… If you don’t want to kill your fellow countrymen for a regime you vehemently oppose, you are a deserter?

    • avatar
      Bernard

      Well according to military law yes. And if by fellow countrymen you mean isis scum then I dont see what the problem is, regardless who gives the orders to wipe them off the face of the earth.

    • avatar
      Bernard

      ISIS isn’t the only opponent of the government forces, so no I am not talking about ISIS only, but also about the democratic opposition forces.
      And what would you do, if you were summoned to join the army which has killed family, neighbors and friends because they want to live in a democratic country. Would you abide to military law?

    • avatar
      Lefteris

      The same regime has been in place for decades. The “civil war” started when isis supported by Turkey started attacking government forces. The people have two choices – allow isis to turn Syria into a caliphate or cooperate with government forces to kick isis out.

    • avatar
      Lefteris

      Thats what they want you to believe. Foreign nationals from Iran, Saudi Arabia etc all loyal to isis have been identified among the “protesters” in 2011.
      In any case I refuse to give sanctuary to deserters. If they turned their back at their country they will never respect the country that helps them.

    • avatar
      Bernard

      What is interesting is that you mention Iran. Iran has always been and, and still is one of the staunchest supporters of the Syrian regime. ISIS views Shiites (the form of Islam preached in Iran), as heretics, so Iran is, in their view a nation of heretics. the Iranian regime will not do anything to destabilize the Syrian regime.
      But back to the deserters / conscientious objectors. If you think the regime in your country is immoral, will you still wear the uniform of that regime? Let me put the question a bit differently: Would you have joined the Ottoman army when Cyprus was part of the Ottoman empire?

    • avatar
      Lefteris

      So Assad and the people of Syria belong to different ethnic and religious groups who have been enemies for thousands of years to compare them to Ottomans and Greeks?

    • avatar
      Lefteris

      Just to answer your question, I have served my military service under the communist government in Cyprus. I disliked the government and their puppet generals. But I still completed my service, trained in special operations and got a field promotion.

    • avatar
      Bernard

      I applaud your loyalty to your country. But disliking a government, is a world away from having to serve as an agent of oppression. The Hungarian soldiers who sided with the Hungarian protesters after their government invited Soviet troops to restore order are seen as the ‘good guys’. Soldiers fleeing to the west so they wouldn’t have to serve in the East-German Volksarmee to the west are seen as bright, independently thinking young men. (I am desperately trying to find an example without mentioning WW2..) So maybe it isn’t a bad idea to not always abide military law but listen to your conscience every now and then…

    • avatar
      Lefteris

      As my unit insignia said “[We fight] For our altars and homes”. You dont fight for the government. You fight for your country. No one can argue that leaving their country in the hands of isis is a good scenario for any Syrian.

  10. avatar
    Aris

    The emergent situation need emergent actions..
    When you face a migrant crisis then some Treaties must be suspended for the good of the European security.

  11. avatar
    Iannis

    The migrant policy of Europe is more or less respectful to human rights, therefore faithful to EU values. Specific points may be changed, there is always room for improvement, but in general, it is well established.
    The main issue, and where the EU betrays its core values, is the way its migrant policy is implemented. Whether we are talking about the inhuman conditions of thousands of people who were stack in Moria or other refugee camps exceeding the capacity of the facilities, or about the unequal distribution of the burden of handling the refugee crisis among EU countries.
    EU seems to have allowed (or/and did not support enough) the Greek Government, International Organizations, and NGO’s to let Moria happen (12.000 refugees residing in a camp made for 3.000, and most importantly during a pandemic).
    On the other hand, migration is a global phenomenon whose routes are on the inability of entire countries and nations to exploit the resources of their lands, either because they lack the “know-how”/technologies/funds/conditions (war, political instability) to do so or because others are taking advantage of them (international corporations/ other countries – some of them based in EU). Some nations live in poverty, while other nations (and more specifically the rich of those nations) live in prosperity on at the expense of others.
    Under this scope refugee/migration crisis cannot be solved with migrant policies, it can be solved with Foreign Policies, and possibly of deciding that the EU will lose part of economic strength that is driven out of other countries. Difficult decicions.

    • avatar
      Bernard

      do we lose economic strength if we create a ‘Marshall-plan’ for poorer nations, if these nations prosper, their inhabitants might crave for Greek ouzo, French wine, Dutch cheese, Belgian chocolate and German cars…

    • avatar
      Anthie

      I absolutely agree with you my friend! That’s what we need. A Marshall plan for other nation-states (i.e. non-EU or US). If we can’t stop inequality, the migration crisis will be the new normal. Both in the EU and the US.

    • avatar
      Dee

      Merkles mistake let her deal with it, now she wants to share her mistake with the rest of Europe

    • avatar
      Iannis

      I think that the Marshall-plan approach only limits the concession of strength to other countries. Sure, there is no one who would disagree that if on every inch of the world there was peace, and somehow everyone could be able and have access to “know-how” and technologies to maximize production, global wealth would have been increased allowing everyone to live a better life. However, in such a utopic scenario, the distribution of wealth would have to be fairer, (otherwise, we would not have τηε preconditions for such a utopia) meaning that Europe would not live in the same prosperity as it does now (given that we all admit that Europe exploits the wealth of other nations in a way or another). How Europe would support other countries to develop their economies? If that is to be succeeded by allowing other countries’ Governments (or Businesses) to exploit their national resources (ending Sweden oil companies make use of oil deposits in the Middle East for example), then Europe will lose a significant source of its economical strength. Additionally, in the case that other countries will start to have better-developed economies this also means that European companies will not have access to cheap human resources (German car manufacturers build their factories in Turkey taking advantage of low salaries), limiting their profits and EU’s strength as well. I think that the loss is bigger than the gain, in a Marshall-plan approach, thus a concession of strength is inevitable. Since our conversation started on a moral basis, I still vote for it to happen, but I do not think that it would happen. “All those who gain power are afraid to lose it.”
      Making a step forward on our conversation, Europe may still win the game of “strength” in a Marshall-plan, since it would be the one which will export services, technologies, and products that do not need natural resources (since it has limited but it can import them fairly). I think this is why the EU invests so many funds in R&D and new technologies. On the question of why Europe has the moral right to continue to try to be on the top of strength: in my opinion, the answer to its values. In one way or another Europe still stands as a guardian of human rights worldwide. This is the reason that the EU should put extra care on whether or not respects or not its values. If not, there is the price of hypocrisy and soon or later it would be paid. (if God and Human are Just).

    • avatar
      Iannis

      it is the most common scenario for others to pay the mistakes of politicians (or of the voting majority).

    • avatar
      Dee

      I don’t remember voting for Merkle here in Ireland…

    • avatar
      Iannis

      yet you feel like paying for her mistakes, or for those who did vote her party. That is the case. And in a way that is Democracy.

    • avatar
      Dee

      LOL I certainly don’t feel like paying for her mistakes and like I said I never voted for the woman, that’s not democracy… it goes to show the insanity of the EU…

    • avatar
      Iannis

      indeed you did not say that you feel like that. My mistake.

  12. avatar
    Christos

    Do we have any other third party countries immigration policies to compare with?

    • avatar
      Bernard

      yes. The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand.

    • avatar
      Christos

      add and the countries of origin of the immigrants too

    • avatar
      Bernard

      why?

    • avatar
      Christos

      to compare. Is there any problem?

    • avatar
      Bernard

      no, I just misunderstood your previous remark,thanks for the clarification!

  13. avatar
    Michael

    I think it has been from the outset. There is a rational way to handle this migrant crisis, and European politicians are refusing to pursue it. It’s been clear from the beginning that Europeans are not opposed to asylum per se, they are just afraid of criminality and violence. So:
    You establish halfway-points for a few years while processing asylum claims, you keep them in good conditions, well-equipped and policed, you have all residents with ID, you gauge levels of criminality.
    If anyone commits a violent offence their asylum is automatically denied and they are deported. Otherwise process the claims normally.
    If someone is granted asylum and commits a violent offence, sentence them and as soon as their sentence is completed immediately deport them for life and revoke their asylum.
    You fly in asylum seekers from existing refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey or Kurdistan, to decongest them and dissuade people from paying human traffickers to put their lives at risk crossing the Mediterranean.
    That’s it. The solution is there, European politicians are just unwilling to implement it. The result has been to embolden neo-nazis, cause further harm to legitimate asylum seekers by forcing them to live in deplorable, unsafe conditions and mixing criminals with law-abiding people, and make human traffickers very rich.
    The ineptitude and mediocrity of European leaders is no longer a joke. It now has a cost in human lives.

  14. avatar
    Maria

    Yes. Those who are coming want the Islamization of EUROPE

  15. avatar
    Mike

    Freedom of movement underpins the EU. It is this that has contributed greatly to common values and shared objectives which has stopped the fights amongst nations. However no one for saw the pressure that a successful project like the EU undoubtedly is, would be under to share that success and open its doors. The only way this can de dealt with us by making it more popular and profitable to stay in their own country. That means spending money building infrastructure, factories and this provide jobs and security. Equally we have to stop selling weapons of war to nations who use them on neighbours that further creates a refugee crises. No easy solution but better than the disintegration of borders and values this crises has caused. We need to beware the growth of the right wing that want to plunge the EU states into the darkness …..

  16. avatar
    Julia

    I have to be honest. I don’t feel the EU has values now because they don’t stand up to dictators like Turkey threatening EU member countries. Of course EU citizens have values. But I feel the EU only responds to them if they are inline with something they want and ignore them when it goes against another interest they have.

  17. avatar
    Bernard

    Is it a ‘value’ to remove our borders and therefore our possibility of self-government in the long term?

  18. avatar
    Nesta

    The EU stands for European Union. WhatsEuropean about this shower of Third World Moslems?

  19. avatar
    Alex

    The EU is America’s puppet and twin currency

  20. avatar
    Yannick

    I think we better get this right because Syria was nothing compared to what the climate breakdown has in store for us in the coming decade (or two, at the most).

    • avatar
      Seán

      What would be getting it right?

    • avatar
      Yannick

      something scalable that does not involve drowning everyone on the way? Ultimately we need to accommodate this new reality. The nationalistic response may be natural but it’s a gamble. Today Europe is the place where people will want to flee. But how long before some Europeans will also need to flee? May I remind everyone that Denmark and the Netherlands are fairly low lying countries. Climate change is not a joke. Getting it right means recognising the fundamental human right to live a safe life. If life becomes unsafe, it’s a perfectly natural response to move to a better place. In short, we need to put the nationalist instincts aside and invest in preparing for huge amounts of climate refugees while we can. The alternative (building walls) is far too ugly.

  21. avatar
    David

    Is there and if yes what is the EU reponse? What are EU values?

  22. avatar
    Cristi

    I don’t know, ask that Swedish girl that was raped merely weeks after Sweden received immigrants. Oh, wait, you can’t. She was also killed and discarded in a forest.

  23. avatar
    Baryal

    We are in trouble, we are killed and now killing us terrorists in our country, neither United States nor United kingdom help us. We have no rights to get education and Don’t Right of better life. Terrorists kill us Everytime, everywhere and we have no our leaders and saints to save us with God . God helps us . Plz plz anyone here, there to save my life and to get better life there. I have completed my BA (14) year’s education in English literature but what should I do for it. Plz help me plz. For God. God will help you

  24. avatar
    Dee

    The european value is cheap labour and undermining national homogeneity in this case..

  25. avatar
    Robin

    EU Values are directly opposed to European Values.

  26. avatar
    Syd

    Stop allowing them to get in little boats and crossing the channel.
    We don’t want them here. Your member states allowed them in to their country in the hope they will go to England.
    They are your problem.
    You deal with them.

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