Festival of European Culture 2016
Dr. Jeroen Doomernik
Dr. Jeroen Doomernik holds an MA in social anthropology and a PhD in human geography from the University of Amsterdam. Currently he is lecturer in political sciences and senior researcher at the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES) at that same university. His career included a three year Post-Doc at the Free University Berlin, policy advice (through secondments to the Ministries of the Interior and Justice), consultancies for the International Labour Office and the European Commission, and a year at the Transatlantic Academy in Washington D.C.. His research centres on the multi-level governance of migration and integration policies and their often unexpected consequences such as irregular migration, human smuggling and trafficking.
From Maastricht to Idomeni. Why it is wrong to speak of a refugee crisis.
It has been suggested that presently we – in Europe – are faced with an unprecedented inflow of asylum seekers and refugees. This is debatable for the early 1990s saw the implosion of the Soviet Union and the Yugoslav Federation resulting in the massive displacement of people, many of whom sought and found refuge in Europe. Then as much as now the largest numbers of refugees ended up in Germany. In response, the German government took measures to reduce the country’s accessibility for asylum seekers. These, as a result, ended up applying for asylum in neighboring states, creating political discomfort in a number of those; none wanting to seem more generous than others. One of the measures dealing with this issue was the Dublin Convention detailing which member state is responsible for a particular asylum request: normally the states with an external EU border. This was also the time of the Maastricht Treaty (1992) which created the European Union. Within this new context asylum and migration were to become of mutual, i.e. intergovernmental, concern. A considerable step further was set five years later when the Amsterdam Treaty (1997) brought these issues into the realm of common and harmonized policy making. In several phases this was to result in a Common European Asylum System (CEAS). On paper this System by and large has come into existence. However, since it still contains the “Dublin principle”, the burden of dealing with asylum requests falls very uneven between members states: some receiving large numbers, others very few. Arguably, the EU’s capacity to adequately deal with asylum requests would be considerably bigger than presently might seem the case provided all member states would accept a balanced share. Instead we witness considerable reluctance among a number of those to do so and the reinforcement of borders to the detriment of the refugees’ right to seek protection and challenging the EU’s raison d’être. And so what has been commonly referred to as the refugee crisis actually lies bare the European Union fundamental deficiency: the political solidarity between the Union’s member states. In other words: the crisis is one caused by politics not by refugees.