Today, on BBC News 'Explainers' online, Professor Alexander Betts provides an analysis of the current refugee crisis. He begins by highlighting that, for the first time in its history, Europe is having to deal with a mass influx of refugees from outside the region, seriously challenging its ‘supposed common asylum and immigration policy’. He argues that Europe must ‘take a global perspective’ and see the European influx in the context where only a small number of the world’s 20 million refugees are coming to Europe. The overwhelming majority (95%) are in countries within refugees’ region of origin, countries that neighbour conflict and crisis, and it is here, he argues, that ‘a significant part of the solution must be found.’
He states, ‘The real challenge is not how we stop people coming to Europe; it is how we create innovative and sustainable global models of refugee assistance. One approach is to reconceive refugees as a development issue rather than simply a humanitarian issue.’
Here he highlights research conducted in Uganda by his team on the Humanitarian Innovation Project, which has demonstrated that refugees can contribute economically to host states if given opportunities for self-reliance (e.g. the right to work). He also highlights the historical example of the CIREFCA initiative in Central America in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where Europe supported development-based approaches to refugee assistance.
‘Today’, he says, ‘similar untapped opportunities exist’, such as the King Hussain Development Area in Jordan, which is just 15-minutes’ drive from Za’atari Refugee Camp.
He concludes by arguing that ‘the EU needs a comprehensive global refugee policy’, including better cooperation among EU states on sharing responsibility within Europe, clearly informing the public about why it is important to take in refugees, and a plan for the sustainable support of refugees elsewhere in the world.