What’s After the “Crisis”? Scenarios for EU Refugee Policy Post-2016

Lehmann Scenarios For Eu Refugee Policy Post 2016 Original

Source: European Commission DG ECHO / Flickr

Growing numbers of asylum seekers have made short-term crisis management the focus of refugee policy in the European Union. How asylum policy might develop in the medium and long term, however, has been largely overlooked. And yet that question remains as relevant as ever before. While the prospective “Brexit” and ongoing terrorism threats have shifted attention away from the “refugee crisis,” the EU institutional framework for refugee protection has not significantly changed. What is more, it remains highly uncertain how the overall numbers of asylum seekers will develop in the near and medium term.

Meanwhile, the European debate about refugee policy has changed. What was once a niche topic discussed by immigration lawyers has become a mainstream foreign policy concern, interwoven with questions of European cohesion and political stability. However, diverse groups of stakeholders and EU member states – non-governmental organizations, “think-tankers” and academics – often talk side by side rather than with each other.

In order to bridge this gap, the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) and Stiftung Mercator convened a group of policy analysts, researchers and activists from different European countries to discuss future directions of refugee policy among different stakeholders. Using elements of scenario analysis, participants identified determinants of EU refugee policy and how they may play out in the next ten years. This paper summarizes key takeaways. It describes two scenarios, that is, consistent descriptions of future situations (which are not predictions of likelihood). First, individual EU states will unilaterally maintain a significantly more open refugee policy than others, which will be sustainable only by acquiescing curbing spontaneous arrivals and ‘handpicking’ refugees. Second, EU states will collectively become more closed, by externalizing initial refugee reception and accepting refugees primarily through legal admission channels from external camps.

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The full report is available for download.

This report is part of a project assessing civil society networks and alliances that work on European Union refugee policy, conducted by GPPi with generous support from the Mercator Foundation.