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How to Resolve Europe’s Political Crisis Over Migration

To address the migration issue effectively, Europe must evolve institutionally, so that it can respond more quickly and effectively to common challenges. Whether than means establishing so-called regional disembarkation platforms or some other mechanism remains to be seen.

BRUSSELS – Since the European Union’s migration crisis peaked in 2015, the number of illegal migrants arriving in the EU has fallen by 95%. Migration challenges remain, and reform of the EU’s methods for managing immigration is desperately needed, as the recent scandalous treatment of the Aquarius rescue vessel, which Italy and Malta turned away, made all too clear. But the timing of the immigration talks held by European leaders in Brussels last month was more a reflection of domestic political crises than a response to a spike in new arrivals.

Yes, Europe’s current asylum policies, which put the burden almost entirely on the countries that receive the most migrants, have failed. But right-wing populists have stoked fears and misconceptions about the number of people arriving in Europe – and about the effects of migration on our societies – to such an extent that their tactics are fueling political cleavages across the continent.

In response to domestic concerns over migration in Germany and Italy, EU government leaders agreed at their summit to explore the idea of “regional disembarkation platforms” in North Africa, under the auspices of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration. Such platforms, if organized in accordance with human rights standards, could allow rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, while reducing the incentive to embark on perilous journeys in the hands of human traffickers.

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