On Friday, 28 August 2015, Professor Alexander Betts appeared on Al Jazeera to discuss European responses to the over 300,000 refugees and migrants that have crossed the Mediterranean to enter Europe this year.
In the interview, Professor Betts highlighted that “People are dying, and Europe is struggling to come up with an adequate solution... This is the first time that Europe has faced a mass influx of refugees from outside the region, and politicians are passing it around like a hot potato, failing to take decisive, coordinated action.”
Professor Betts argued that Europe requires a comprehensive refugee policy. This should include, firstly, better solidarity with frontline host countries in the regions of origin of refugees, providing them with not only humanitarian assistance but also development assistance. Secondly, Europe needs coordinated responsibility-sharing across all 28 member countries in accommodating refugees. Finally, on a national level, politicians would need to show “moral courage and leadership” to articulate to their publics “who is coming from where, and why we have a moral responsibility to protect refugees...why we should do so ethically, legally, why we should recognise their socioeconomic contributions, and importantly why we should show solidarity globally to support countries that host the majority of the world’s refugees.”
In relation to people smuggling, Professor Betts indicated that “smuggling is not the cause of migration but a symptom an underlying reason why they want to come to Europe… to address the problem, we have to deal with the root causes of refugee movement and ensure that we can provide legal ways in which refugees can access European territory. At the moment, we don’t have that.”