The EU has recently announced that it will be giving €2.6 billion in aid, over 6 years, to EU Member States dealing with the refugee and migrant crisis. In an interview on BBC World Service Newsday (11 August), Professor Alexander Betts has said that while this is a step in the right direction, “money is not the absolute solution to the problem”.
The problem, he says, with the €2.6 billion, is that it is money, “it moves finance but it doesn’t move people… Politically, one of the main sources of distress…is the inequality in the numbers of people” that countries are receiving. For example, 50,000 people arrived in Greece in July alone, compared with 3-4000 trying to cross to the UK from Calais.
Regarding the EU asylum process, he said: “The Dublin convention means that there is a fundamental inequality in European asylum policy. The first country an asylum seeker arrives in – Greece or Italy – takes the overwhelming bulk of responsibility and in theory there should be compensation mechanisms, relocation of people during an emergency, and a European refugee fund. Up to now those have been far too little and it means that inevitably the majority of people are going to Italy, Greece, the frontline states of the Mediterranean. That creates dispute, arguments between governments, and while Europe squabbles, people die.”
Professor Betts highlights that the bulk (95%) of the world's refugees are in nations (such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey) that neighbour countries in conflict and crisis – compared to which the current numbers arriving in Europe are relatively small. He concludes that “we have an absolute legal obligation under international law to admit people onto our territory if they face a well-founded fear of persecution, and that’s really the mark of a civilised state.”