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What We Need to Know About the European Refugee Crisis

Nov 10 , 2015
  • Chen Jimin

    Associate Research Fellow, CPC Party School

In recent months, the EU has been under pressure by the migration flow from the Middle East and North Africa. The flow of migrants into Europe had tripled over the past year, reaching more than 340,000 in the first seven months of 2015. Obviously, this huge immigration flow, the largest in the EU since WWII, has caused a serious humanitarian crisis, even a crisis of conscience,[1] which is causing a larger political crisis in the EU.

What are the reasons behind it? Generally speaking, economic issues are the primary and main driving motives for migration; people want to seek a better life. Certainly, it is a personal choice. The current wave of immigration in Europe, however, has a particular context. Due to geographical proximity and historical and cultural factors, the migrants choosing Europe as the destination country are mostly from Africa. Throughout history, many countries in Africa were be colonized by European powers, which may have produced an affinity in Africa for European culture. It is an important factor when the migrants make their decisions in choosing the destination.

However this time, the main source of the current wave of European immigration is not from Africa, but the Middle East and North Africa, in which the Syrians, Tunisians and Libyans account for the greatest parts. The reason for these people leaving their homes for Europe at a great risk cannot merely be confined to an economic one. It must also have political rationale, which dates back to the “Arab Spring” in 2010. In the so-called “democratization” movement, a large number of countries fell into war and turmoil. The United States and Europe played their role in this process. They supported the oppositions in the target country, or even launched military attacks directly to subvert the regimes like in Libya.

Syria is also in the same situation, but the outcome is still uncertain. There is no doubt that Syria is in a state of war. For all parties concerned, the “Islamic State” has put more energy and resources in the war. We must know the catastrophic situation has lasted for four years, bringing grave disaster and destruction to the people and the land. The current European immigration crisis was mainly caused by the long-term war and political instability in the region.[2] Under the circumstances, to immigrate is a passive individual choice. From this perspective, these people should not be simply treated as illegal immigrants. Many of them are refugees.[3] Thus, the policies European countries take to cope with the refugee crisis should be based on the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and the UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, following the principle of non-refoulement, and providing necessary shelters, protections and other assistance.[4]

Fundamentally, solving the refugee crisis cannot only rely on having more police, more funds, or more physical walls and fences separating the migrants; the root cause of chaos in the Middle East and North Africa must be eliminated. It is especially urgent now to reach a lasting and binding political solution on the Syrian issue and jointly combat the Islamic State, restoring the basic living conditions and foundations for development in the conflict-ravaged region – to give people the necessary hope for a better future.[5]In this regard, Europe and the United States should take the first and foremost responsibilities.

[1]“Europe’s Crisis of Conscience”,

[2] CURTIS FJ DOEBBLER, “The European Migration Crisis,” APRIL 24, 2015,; “U.N. Representative Blames Syria’s Civil War For Massive Migration Crisis,” APRIL 23, 2015,

[3] “Refugee Protection: A Guide to International Refugee Law,” p.41,

[4] “Refugee Protection: A Guide to International Refugee Law,” p.56,

[5] The Monitor’s View,“Taproot for Europe’s migrant crisis,” August 24, 2015,

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