The refugee crisis: Four steps to be taken

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Ivailo Kalfin [Georgi Gotev]

Sharing the burden of the refugee crisis is not just about relocating refugees, says Ivailo Kalfin, Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria.

Ivailo Kalfin is Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria for Demographic and Social Policies and Minister of Labor and Social Policy. A former MEP from the S&D group, he is a member of the Monti high-level group on own resources. Kalfin shared this op-ed exclusively with EURACTIV.

The refugee crisis puts to test the ability of the European Union to successfully solve emerging problems. What European citizens expect is to see that there is that someone in the driver’s seat, demonstrating that the situation is under control. Is this the case now?

Member states are doing everything possible to face the challenge of the mass migration of refugees. But many actions would be much more efficient at the EU, rather than at the national level. The baseline is that Europe has to stick to its principles and provide assistance and support to the people fleeing from scenes of war and terrorism, including by providing asylum and actively seeking solution of the existing crises. To accomplish this obligation, we need to take several very clear and bold actions.

First, we should assess the capacity to accommodate asylum seekers. Otherwise, with up to 10 thousand people crossing the EU borders daily, we create something like a Ponzi scheme –refugees know that it is not sustainable, but they might win if they act quickly. Life shows that in such circumstances, there are more losers than winners.

Second, the hotspots for registration and first assessment have to be moved outside the EU borders – to the refugee camps, close to the conflict zones. Now, we practically compensate these who can pay traffickers, moving people across thousands of kilometers and seas, risking their lives. This approach is not acceptable.

Third, the extraordinary situation calls for extraordinary measures. We should suspend the Dublin II agreement, allow the targeted reintroduction of border controls in the Schengen area, and reconsider the eligible countries of origin. These will be temporary measures adequate to the situation.

Fourth, the burden has to be fairly shared among the EU member states. This will not happen by just relocating asylum seekers. The quota principle nationalizes a problem that should be addressed by the Union.

But the real issue is the practical implementation. How can Bulgaria, or any other country, guarantee that a particular refugee would stay? Most of them aim to settle in Germany or Sweden. They refuse training, schooling, even jobs – following their dreams to live in a much wealthier member state.

Hence, a possible solution is to accept that the EU is a single space, to break the process of integrating the refugees into procedures and plan the appropriate involvement of every member state.

Such an approach could also help a better budgeting and efficient financing of respective policies. Of course, the potential contribution of the refugees, after their integration to the national economies, should be also taken into consideration.   

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