What limits can you legally cross?

Europe's borders

Franck Düvell

To person

Dr. phil., born 1961; Senior Researcher at the Center on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), Oxford University, 58 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX3 0ER / UK. [email protected]

In 2013, crises were reported from 69 states or regions. [1] In 2012 there were 45.2 million refugees worldwide - the highest number since 1994. Around 16.34 million were international and 28.8 million internal refugees. 7.6 million were newly displaced, that is 23,000 people per day - the highest number since 1999. Around 55 percent of all refugees come from just five countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan; 48 percent of all refugees are women, 46 percent children. [2] For economic, security and immigration policy reasons, migration control is being expanded around the world in order to differentiate between "wanted" and "unwanted" migrants. The latter also include irregular (labor) migrants and refugees. In particular, a passport and visa requirement was gradually introduced for citizens of many countries. But the persecuting states rarely issue their victims with passports, and there are also no visas for refugees in the destination states. This effectively restricted the travel options of refugees: Without a visa and passport, they can neither leave the persecuting state nor legally enter another safe state.

In addition, the institution of asylum set out in the UN Refugee Convention [3] has been gradually restricted worldwide and refugee protection dismantled for some time. Refugees find it increasingly difficult to get to a safe country, especially an EU country, and even more difficult to build a new life there. Border security has taken precedence over refugee protection. This is evidenced by the many cases of unlawful rejection and the more than 20,000 deaths at the EU's external borders since the early 1990s. Over 80 percent of all refugees live in developing countries and less than 20 percent in industrialized countries, ten years ago this was still 30 percent. [4] With a few exceptions, the majority of refugees come from poor countries and most of them also find refuge in poor countries. So the global refugee problem is also a poverty problem.

In 2012, around 1.5 million refugees lived in the EU, which is only around 3.3 percent of all displaced persons worldwide. In addition, 479,300 of the 7.6 million newly displaced people in industrialized countries have applied for asylum, around 297,000 of them in the EU. [5] That is barely four percent of all those seeking protection. A quarter of these were women and 20 percent were minors. [6] The EU countries had made 5,500 places available for 172,000 refugees worldwide who were to be relocated to a safe state in 2012. [7] The Global North and also the EU have thus more or less successfully shielded themselves from the refugees of this world, especially from women and children. This is primarily at the expense of the refugees, but also at the expense of the states, which instead become destination countries for the refugees.

The Federal Republic of Germany, however, is an exception in this pattern. A total of almost 590,000 refugees lived in Germany in 2012, and more than 50,000 applied for asylum, the highest number in the EU alongside France. [8] Germany has also taken in an above-average number of resettled refugees, 5,000 from Syria alone in 2013 and several thousand refugees in recent years, including those from Tunisia (200), Lebanon and Syria (2501). [9]

This article deals primarily with the situation of refugees in the countries on the periphery and in the neighborhood of the EU - i.e. the refugees who either have not (yet) tried or have not made it to the safe and prosperous "EU- North "or which have to stay in the peripheral southern EU states due to European legislation.

Laws and Numbers

In politics and laws of the EU, the entry of refugees, since they do not have a visa, de facto codified as "unauthorized border crossing" [10] which the Member States are obliged to prevent. Refugees "can", but need not, "be allowed to enter (...) for humanitarian reasons or reasons of national interest or on the basis of international obligations". [11] There is no obligation to allow refugees to enter the country, for example in accordance with the UN Refugee Convention. The visa requirement, the obligation to monitor borders and the absence of an obligation to protect refugees are the main legal regulations that exclude refugees from entering the EU and they legally - but not necessarily de facto - oblige you to stay in a country outside the EU. Should they still manage to enter the EU and apply for asylum, they cannot be sent back to a non-EU country.

However, a further law, the so-called Dublin II Convention, [12] obliges them to conduct their asylum procedure in the first safe EU state; if a refugee "illegally crossed the (...) border of a Member State (...), this Member State is responsible for examining the asylum application", according to Article 10 paragraph 1. Should they nevertheless continue to travel to another EU country, for example in the north, they are usually sent back to the first EU country they entered. This is often one of the peripheral states in Eastern or Southern Europe. In this respect, this regulation is almost a penalty for not preventing the respective member state from entering the country.

The legal exclusion of refugees or their detention in the eastern and southern EU and non-EU countries has resulted in hundreds of thousands of refugees living there. Around 530,000 refugees are registered or suspected of being in neighboring EU countries, as well as 550,000 to over a million irregular migrants, most of them in Turkey. 182,043 refugees are registered in the EU border states. It is also estimated that there are 1.4 to 1.64 million irregular migrants living there. Since most non-EU countries, but also some EU countries, have no or no functioning asylum system at all, refugees are often without a residence permit and de facto "undocumented". This means that in addition to the registered refugees, there are other refugees behind the numbers of irregular migrants.

Every year refugees and migrants from a neighboring EU country try to travel on to the EU, in 2008 that was 151,000 and in 2012 73,000. [13] The number of those discussed below is considerable, at least 2 to 2.6 million people (not counting the refugees in Russia).

In principle, the less prosperous states on the periphery or outside the EU have less capacity than the affluent northern EU states to take in refugees and provide them with adequate care. Often there is no fully functioning constitutional state and only minimal or no social benefits for their own citizens. Although the EU makes funds available to the member, accession and neighboring countries, they are mainly used to ward off refugees and migrants. In addition, a number of states show little or no willingness to accept or integrate migrants and refugees, and some of them pursue xenophobic ideologies (e.g. Ukraine, Libya).

A distinction must also be made between refugees and economic migrants. On the one hand, there are other vulnerable categories of migrants in addition to refugees, in particular families with children, women, unaccompanied minors or victims of crime. On the other hand, refugees and other migrants usually live in the same residential areas, use the same smugglers, travel in mixed groups and sometimes literally sit in the same boat. The UNHCR jargon therefore also speaks of "mixed flows".