• Silvia Naydenova

Migration Crisis 2.0

Protesters take part in a rally in the port of Mytilene, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Local residents and business owners have launched a day of protest on the Greek islands hardest hit by migration, demanding the Greek government ease severe overcrowding at refugee camps. (AP Photo/Aggelos Barai)The Associated Press

In the period 2013-2015, the European Union (EU) experienced its most impactful crisis so far. The peak of the crisis was in 2015 when over 1.8 million people crossed the borders of the EU irregularly.[1] This unprecedented number of refugees led to the securitisation[1] of the Migration Crisis by the EU and its institutions and the adoption of emergency measures, to control migration flows, protect the borders of the EU and effectively manage migrants and their integration. The EU has focused on applying a geographically motivated migration policy, one which has externalised the protection of the European borders, handling of asylum applications, relocation, or temporary refuge for illegal immigrants, to the first-in-line transit countries. In this respect, together with Italy, the Western Balkans have become a key ‘transit sphere’, but also a ‘safe’ space for asylum seekers and an instrument for effective control of irregular migration.[2] This externalisation policy is based on the EU legal framework for asylum, and specifically on the Dublin III Regulation (predecessors: Dublin I, 2000; Dublin II, 2003).[3] Consequently, this has created immense pressure on these states, their borders, economies and societies. In return for these efforts, the EU has been allocating financial and policing assistance, motivated by the enticing idea that such a ‘mutually advantageous’ relationship between itself and the already overburdened frontline states will truly work for both sides. However, this is not the case.

In 2019, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad renewed his military offensive in Idlib Province, which gave rise not only to rapidly worsening conditions and the increased insecurity of people in the region but also to a second migration flow towards the border of Turkey.[4] The influx was further enhanced by Ankara’s decision, in late February 2020, to open its borders and thus allow migrants to enter the bloc through its territory.[5] After this announcement, coupled with continued tensions in the Middle East, an estimated 80 000 more refugees were expected to head to the Turkish border in a bid to find safety and welfare.[6] This situation created a second influx of migrants and increased pressure on the borders between Turkey and Greece and highlighted dangerous mishandling of migration policies and grave human rights abuses from both sides.