As of late August 2013, close to 2 million Syrians have been forced to flee as refugees to neighbouring countries, with hundreds of thousands more forced to leave their homes within the country. With no end in sight to the devastating conflict, the vast human suffering it has unleashed is expected to continue to drive people from Syria to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, as well to European countries where they have sought protection.
Until now, European Union Member States and institutions have contributed generously to the UN’s calls for financial assistance to the humanitarian aid effort. But responses to Syrian asylum-seekers at or within the territory of the Member States have varied widely. While some Member States have granted protection to many of the relatively limited numbers of asylum-seekers arriving to date, forms of status granted, as well as the duration, levels of associated rights and other entitlements diverge significantly. Denials of access to territory and to asylum procedures have been reported, and some European states continue to detain Syrians excessively, or fail to provide appropriate conditions while claimants await decisions, often for months or longer.
Political commitments to solidarity with the countries in Syria’s neighbouring region are continually expressed at EU level and by Member States. However, the number of resettlement and humanitarian admission places offered to date remain modest. Syrians requesting family reunification with relatives displaced in the region continue to face a slow and challenging process in most Member States.
In this lecture, Madeline Garlick analyses the trends in arrivals, recognition rates and other responses to date to Syrians claiming protection in and at the borders of the EU. She questions whether the Common European Asylum System has proven its ability to deliver swift and consistent protection to those in need, as foreseen in the Treaties and successive political declarations, in the face of widespread and well-documented persecution, extreme violence and horrifying violations of human rights.
In addition, the lecture examines current or proposed European and national measures aimed at responsibility-sharing, extending beyond emergency humanitarian assistance, for refugees hosted in the Middle East, Turkey, Egypt and other significantly affected countries. It will also look at possible scenarios for the immediate future, and what more the EU and Member States can, or should, be doing to respond more effectively to the protection needs of individuals, and the needs of host countries outside Europe, struggling under the weight of their refugee populations.