The United States’ Policy Regarding the European Refugee Crisis: Challenges, Opportunities and Possible Outcomes

Executive Summary

The most powerful factor that has been contributing to growing interconnection of today’s world is perhaps violent conflicts – both national and international – that cause massive amounts of people to seek for relocation. Today, the continent of Europe is a major destination for millions of disadvantaged victims of ongoing crises mainly in Africa, Western and South Asia. For many of them this relocation has become not only a matter of looking for better living standards, but a matter of survival, as well as overcoming an extreme poverty, undernourishment and various other dangers. Considering the fact that according to U.S. Department of State’ official web-site, the goal of the US foreign policy is “to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people” , facing these challenges and turning them into opportunities is obviously the interest of the United States of America. Therefore, several suggestions on the future co-operation with our European allies in order to advance the security of Europe and its borders are presented in this Foreign Policy Planning Paper, as well as a brief outlook on a current refugee crisis situation.


Having a deep historical background, a refugee crisis has escalated comparatively recently. Namely, in 2014 the number of 59.5 millions of forcefully displaced people worldwide was reached, which became the highest rate since World War II . In 2015, however, the states of the European Union became the major destination for those who either seek asylum or just better living standards, along with safer and more peaceful living environment.

Today, the two main ways for migrants and refugees to reach Europe are the Mediterranean Sea and Southeast Europe. Both have proven to be dangerous due to various problems related to transportation difficulties causing high death tools among migrants. That being said, various attempts to set some legal regulations have been already undertaken by the EU and its member states, as well as by other states and organizations.

Nowadays, according to data provided by The UN Refugee Agency, the top nationalities of Mediterranean Sea arrivals are Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Eritrea, Pakistan, Guinea and Sudan. Approximately 30% of them are Syrian refugees who flee from the violent war conflict . Tensions rise in Europe due to highly disproportional burdens faced by some states like Hungary, Greece, Spain, Italy, although Germany has definitely received the highest number of asylum applications both in 2015 and 2016.

While the most of forcefully displaced people are also asylum seekers, the actual number of people being given an asylum is still disproportionately low. Germany seems to have the most efficient asylum-granting policy, followed by Sweden, Italy, France, Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Outside of the EU, Turkey also has a significant role in managing the crisis. In order to improve the management of the migrants flow, the EU and Turkey entered a special

agreement in 2016, which affected the situation largely. Under this treaty, for each Syrian refugee returned to Turkey, one Syrian will be resettled in the EU, and all “irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece will be sent back . Also, each arrival must be individually assessed by the Greek authorities. This agreement, however, has already invoked a lot of criticism from both Turkish authorities and human rights organizations. Moreover, its implementation has been intricate due to 2016 Turkish coup d’?tat attempt which has caused a growing migration from Turkey.

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A wide-spread disappointment with an existing quota system, as well as massive uncontrolled border crossings, have already caused several European states to close their borders. Bulgaria, Slovenia, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Spain and some other countries are going to or are already using border fences to prevent migrants from avoiding checkpoints while crossing the borders. On the other hand, Germany has been praised for its open-border immigration policy by multiple political actors including the United States.

Finding the solution to the crisis is extremely complex and requires addressing both short-term (shelters, safety, transportation, fear within local communities) an long-term issues (integration, labor and return policies) . It is quite apparent that this crisis must not be considered as solely European struggle, because this issue has truly global dimension. That being said, the US, due to its foreign policy principles, is obliged to take a resolute and unhesitating stance on the safety in Europe. In particular, several foreign policy suggestions regarding the US’ assistance are presented here.

Foreign Policy Recommendations

Recommendation 1 – Building a Welcoming Environment within the US

It is evident that one of the most effective ways to ease the pressure on the European states, some of which struggle to live up to existing quota requirements, is to offer non-European destination points for forcefully-displaced people. For example, Lebanese officials estimate the overall number of registered and unregistered refugees at 1.5 million . Being appealing destination points for migrants, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are criticized by various human rights organizations for not accepting enough refugees despite having enough of recourses and possibilities, and Israel is now the only state bordering Syria that has refused to receive Syrian refugees . When it comes to more remote regions, Australia, for instance, despite having quite strict immigration policy, has already taken in more than 4400 refugees from Syria and Iraq.

According to the statement made by President Barack Obama in 2014, “the basic idea of welcoming immigrants to our shores is central for our way of life – it is in our DNA”. What is more, according to a Pew Research Center poll, conducted in 2015, about 51% of Americans think that the immigrants strengthen the economy through their hard work and talents. That being said, the US today has both recourses and public approval for welcoming more refugees from regions of Africa and Asia. Therefore, two main ideas should be considered here.

Firstly, building an accepting and friendly environment for forcefully-displaced people from high tension zones will demonstrate the whole world that there is a decent alternative destination for refugees outside Europe. Secondly, it would be desirable that the US becomes a part of the EU’s return policy meaning that some migrants that have already arrived to Europe, can be safely reassigned to the United States in a case if returning to the place of origin is to dangerous or impossible. This process will be properly regulated and supervised in order to exclude any possibilities of an uncontrolled or illegal reassignment.

More open and appealing immigration policy of the US’ government is unlikely to cause any massive migration flows to America primarily due to its remoteness from Asia and Africa. The readmission process should be financed with joined efforts of the USA, the European Union (or its particular member states which is willing to reassign a refugee) and the UN Refugee Agency. In order to implement this plan, a special agreement between the US and the EU must be negotiated and signed.

Recommendation 2 – Providing Assistance in European Negotiations Regarding Quota System

According to this suggestion, the United States should mobilize its diplomatic potential and recourses to develop a number of suggestions for future negotiations between the European states regarding an improvement of the existing reallocation system. Not only would the United States’ diplomats offer their recommendations, but they would also attend the negotiations, if approved by the European Union, in order to both ease the possible tensions between the negotiating parties and humbly offer its consulting or informational assistance if needed.

It is necessary to come up with a proper way to reallocate refugees that would be accepted by all member states . The United States would recommend an approach that would combine the elements of both so-called “quota model” and “freedom of choice” policy.

Together with the European counterparts, the US will put its efforts in developing a reasonable system, according to which each state’s quota would be fully based on such factors as economical welfare and stability, number of current inhabitants, unemployment rate, land area available, number of already received migrants, existing infrastructure and also possibilities of safe transportation. It goes without saying, that those states that go over this quota will be properly and proportionately financially compensated.

The United States will also suggest bringing the elements of freedom of choice to an existing model. The key concept here is that it can potentially contribute to solving a problem of divided migrant families.

Moreover, building an outlook that regards a refugee as an actor with his own need, desires and expectations is essential and, unfortunately, underestimated measure today, especially since many of refugees have their own vision about how their knowledge and skills will contribute to the needs of particular communities. Also, possible negative consequences of this approach can partly be softened by proportional financial compensation for overly burdened states.

When it comes to so-called “quota model” elements, as it has been mentioned above, factors that determine quotas for each state should be clear, evident and based on a completely transparent calculation. Even minor possible inaccuracies and ambiguities can lead to protests of the particular parties of an agreement, even if they have already voluntarily

agreed to these requirements. In this case there is a high possibility that some countries, that feel overly burdened with a refugee flow, would refuse to comply with their quotas.

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The European Union is familiar and has a lot of experience with a reallocation system, but an existing approach should be extended to its more fair, reasonable, egalitarian and transparent version.

What is more, if this recommendation is applied in combination with the first one, there is a possibility of further development of an agreement between the United States and the European Union member states (as well as non-EU European states like Turkey), according to which the US would also participate in a quota mechanism to a certain extent. There is a hope that this initiative of the United States will persuade other non-European nations to become active participants of the reallocation process and quota mechanism, because this crisis is truly a global issue.

Recommendation 3 – Providing Human Resources for Initial and Further Migrants’ Integration into European and non-European Societies

It is evident that most forcefully-displaced people arrive to the prosperous regions of the European Union in order to become a part of safe, peaceful and comparatively wealthy society not facing extreme poverty or severe financial struggles on a daily basis. This aspiration is absolutely just and understandable, and it also explains the concept of so-called “immigrant bargain” – the initial willingness to accept some low-level occupations, in exchange of the possibility of future advancement, even when immigrants arrive with education, knowledge, skills and experience that could bring them significant social and economical status within their homeland communities.

Some of refugees also hope that their children reach higher social status that they themselves are not able of and that would never be available to them in their places of origin. As a result of this tendency, refugees are underrepresented in a high wade-sector.

Moreover, unfortunately, immigrants are far more likely to work in unsafe conditions or even dangerous ones. However, in happens not only because of their own pure career choices, due to the irresponsible employers who often either fail to treat native employees and immigrants equally or purposefully hires immigrant employees only due to unwillingness to provide proper work conditions. Of course, these cases almost always remain unreported by immigrants, though it is a serious violation of labor legal regulations, as well as of human rights.

These and various other struggles faced by immigrants in the European communities are caused by complexities of social integration for refugees. Social integration is an extremely long and intricate process that raises issues of employment, tolerance, social acceptance, education, healthcare, housing, communication, gender, religion, language, race, traditions, criminal behavior and so on.

It is worth noticing that the United States have a rich experience of social work with immigrant people from different regions of the world (mainly, from the countries of Latin America). Therefore, America has a lot to offer when it comes to sharing an experience of social work with refugees in order to help them to become a part of their new host communities.

It is obvious that different hosting communities will require absolutely different amounts and types of assistance. For instance, it’s safe to assume that such West European nations as Germany, France and the UK are less likely to require a comprehensive support from the US, then such states as Hungary, Greece, Turkey and non-European nations.

It is necessary to emphasize that the United States, in an alliance with various human rights organizations, will offer its human recourses not only for European hosting states, but also for other countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, that nowadays face massive migration flows as well; and these states find it even harder to deal with this crisis than their European counterparts. As has been mentioned, non-European regions should also participate in a reallocation processes to help to ease the tension on the European Union member-states. Another reason why an emphasis on non-European states should be made is that reaching the bordering country does not require migrants from such places as Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon etc. to cross such a large territory and expose themselves to various dangers of crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In short, the future direction of dealing with an international migration crisis must stimulate a development of a new global outlook which would exclude a current Eurocentric approach. Though it is a matter of a long historical development, it is necessary to help asylum-seekers not to narrow down their perspectives to European region solely.

That being said, the United States should as soon as possible start to develop a detailed plan that will indicate particular needs in qualified human resources for social work with refugees around the world and hopefully address those needs as comprehensively as possible.

Firstly, this aid will include sending qualified translators to the refugee camps around the world. The best way to accomplish it is through the collaboration with UN Refugee Agency. Fluent Arabic, Pashto, Farsi, Kiswahili speaking translators working in shelters and camps would help migrants with their basic integration.

Furthermore, the US will also do its best to provide legal consultants whose job would be to supervise the obedience to the law by those who interact with migrants within shelters, to draw low enforcement bodies’ attention to violations of migrants’ rights, to provide pro-bono legal advice to migrants etc. Other types of human resources provided by the United States will include such specialists as psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, nurses, paramedics, other medical professionals, job consultants, teachers and so on.

In general, if the US government, in alliance with other actors both in public and private sectors, is able to define and properly address the specific needs of refugees’ communities around the world, there is a possibility that in a long-term perspective a poll of possible migration destination for the asylum-seekers would not be restricted to the European countries only. By making various Asian and African regions more appealing to refugees, we can reasonably hope to ease the burden on the EU nations.

Suggestion 4 – Providing Assistance in Making the Mediterranean Sea less dangerous for migrants

The Mediterranean Sea washes the north shores of Africa and Southern borders of many European countries. Within the Mediterranean Sea there are several routes which are primarily used by asylum-seekers mainly heading to Greece, Italy and Spain . Every year these migrant movements continue to exact a devastating toll of human life, having its peak in 2015. The main reasons are pure travel planning, pure transportation quality (refugees usually use unsafe boats), lack of marine navigation experience, various unpredicted circumstances such as weather conditions, lack of supervision and control over the massive sea areas. The US should take action to reduce human suffering on the sea. Firstly, such attempts should include training and assigning several rescue teams in order to conduct high-quality supervision over the large marine areas in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Secondly, the United States will also be willing and able to actively participate in any searing activities which might be required, for instance, after reported storms in these areas. The US should become an active participant of the NATO mission in the Mediterranean Sea to interdict refugees travelling by the sea routes heading to Greece and Italy (there is a small NATO force in the Mediterranean with vessels from Germany, Canada, Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, which tries to interdict human smugglers and rescue refugee boats that are sinking ). It is worth noticing that the US has been participating in various programs targeted at training special marine troops to patrol wide marine areas and rescue sinking vessels. These troops are trained to perform their responsibilities the most dangerous weather conditions including severe storms and low temperatures. Moreover, all of them are constantly improving their first-aid skills in order to always be on alert to provide any medical assistance that may be required on the sea.

It is imperative for the USA to make an aerial reconnaissance in the sector of the Mediterranean in order to ensure timely warning to the vessels of NATO regarding some refugees. Thus, the efficiently of the NATO force will be increased without the necessity of providing more vessels. It would also help to decrease a time period between detection of refugee boats and reaching them. The US should also offer non-lethal aid to the governments of Italiy, Greece and Turkey in order to assist in their interdiction efforts on the sea as well as on the seashores. The aid package should fulfill the requirements of the governments’ needs. However, it might as well contain navigation, communications, search, rescue, and medical equipment, as well as patrol boats. Undoubtedly, the US is always ready to build special partnerships with both American and foreign businesses, non-profit organizations and governmental structures in order to improve the quality of our participation in solving the European refugee crisis.

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