Refugee children from Syria Oxfam International/Flickr

Europe's Refugee Opportunity

The ongoing exodus from Syria and other war-torn countries was long in the making, easy to foresee, and eminently manageable. And now, with fear-mongering nativists peddling a vision that would divide and destroy the EU, a comprehensive strategy to end the panic and stop the unnecessary human suffering cannot wait.

ROME – Europe’s so-called refugee crisis should never have become an emergency. Accommodating one million asylum-seekers should not be a huge challenge for the European Union – an area with 500 million citizens that welcomes more than three million immigrants every year. Unfortunately, the lack of a coordinated response is transforming a manageable problem into an acute political crisis – one that, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rightly warned, could destroy the EU.

Most EU member states are selfishly focusing on their own interests. This pits them against one another and has precipitated panic, putting refugees in even greater peril. A smart, comprehensive plan would calm the fears. Instead, Europe has preferred to search for scapegoats – and Greece is the latest to be targeted for blame.

Greece has been accused of not doing enough to process and house refugees. And yet, even if the country were not crippled by economic crisis, it would be unreasonable to expect a single small country to bear the burden alone – especially in a year when more than 800,000 refugees are expected to pass through its territory. This is a European and global problem, not solely a Greek problem.

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