Closing our eyes to the migrant crisis will only make matters worse

The decision by Austria last week to accept only 80 asylum seekers per day is a demonstration of the growing reluctance of European Union Member States to share responsibility in the humanitarian crisis. But does closing borders – and our eyes – make the reality disappear? Far from it. All we achieve is a reduced respect for human rights and EU law, and increased pressure on already fragile EU states. By failing to accept reality, we are creating problems at our external borders that will become more and more difficult to manage in the future.

Closing borders does not make our international obligations disappear. Austria’s decision goes against Article 33 of the Geneva Convention that prohibits expulsion or return of refugees.

Closing our internal borders is going to make the situation worse in Southern countries like Greece and Italy already suffering from the economic and social crisis. We are currently seeing countries with the lowest economic means having to provide the highest levels of support to refugees and migrants. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday, the Greece needs the EU’s help.

Closing external borders and asking Turkey to host more than three million refugees is an attempt to shift responsibility for refugees and migrants away from the EU. I find it hard to accept that the second richest economic region in the world comprising more than 500 million people should pressure Turkey and its 75 million people to host more than three million refugees.

There is a rise of Euroscepticism across the EU and legitimate concerns about how to respond to the flow of refugees and migrants entering our borders, but the current approach of closing our eyes and shifting blame is creating more problems than it is solving. I think that there would be less Euroscepticism if EU countries cooperated and shared the responsibility for dealing with the flow of refugees and migrants. According to the Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation, 79 percent of Europeans want a fair distribution of asylum seekers across all countries in the EU. Isn’t that a good reason to open our eyes?

Let’s engage,

Pierre Baussand, Director