LONDON – The asylum policy that emerged from the European Union’s negotiations last month with Turkey became effective on April 4, when 202 asylum-seekers were deported from Greece. The policy has four fundamental flaws.
- It was negotiated with Turkey and imposed on the EU by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
- It is severely under-funded.
- It is not voluntary, for it establishes quotas that many member states oppose and requires refugees to take up residence in countries where they don’t want to live.
- It transforms Greece into a de facto holding pen with insufficient facilities for the number of asylum-seekers already there.
All of these deficiencies can be corrected. The European Commission implicitly acknowledged some of them on April 6 in a new set of proposals for reforming Europe’s asylum system. But the Commission’s proposals still rely on compulsory quotas. That will never work. Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans is inviting an open debate.
A comprehensive asylum policy for Europe, I believe, should establish a firm and reliable annual target of 300,000-500,000 refugees. This is large enough to give refugees the assurance that they can eventually reach their destination, yet small enough to be accommodated even in today’s unfavorable political climate.
There are established techniques for the voluntary matching of supply and demand in other fields, such as matching students to schools and medical interns to hospitals. In the case of refugees, those determined to go to a particular destination would have to wait longer than those who accept the destination allotted to them. Registered asylum-seekers could then be required to await their turn where they are currently located.