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Europe

European Union overwhelmed by migrant crisis, expert

media Migrants queing to get registered on the Greek island of Kos. Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

A record 107,500 migrants crossed the European Union's borders last month, according to new figures. EU border agency Frontex reported that its latest figures far outstripped the previous monthly record in June of 70,000.

With more than 340,000 having crossed the EU's borders in the last seven months - compared to 123,500 during the same period last year – activists now call the situation a humanitarian crisis.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

These high numbers are largely due to ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq and ongoing violence in Afghanistan.

The EU has been heavily criticised in recent months for its slow answer to the current crisis.

“What we see is that the approach of the European Union has remained largely the same over the years since the EU gain competence over home affairs and justice in 1999,” says Kadri Soova, an advocacy at the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants.

“It means that the EU really focuses on border controls, basically to prevent people from entering Europe, repressive measures such as detentions and also the return of people without residence status.”

There have been various initiatives from European institutions, such as 2.4 billion euros of funding to help member states such as Greece and Italy. But the Commission failed to shape a system of quotas for asylum seekers earlier this year.

The plan would have seen asylum seekers and refugees being shared among the 28 member states according to their size.

Some are proposing another approach to the problem.

“What is required is an integrated and sensitive approach,” says Demetrios Papademetriou the president of the Migration Policy Institute.

“They’ll have to continue to invest an enormous of political capital both into trying to resolve some of the political crisis that have led to this but also invest diplomatic capital in places which could erupt tomorrow if left alone.”

Another issue that the EU needs to tackle is that asylum applications are not divided equally among member states.

Germany, for example, expects as many as 750,000 refugees to seek asylum there this year. Last year, Sweden, ranking second when it comes to the number of applications, received less than 90,000 and France around 60,000.

“We need to develop a truly European approach when dealing with migration and asylum,” explains Ken Pollet, a policy officer at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles.

“It is clear that it is still a matter of shared competences,” he adds. “It means that there are still a number of arrangements agreed upon at the EU level but, at the end of the day, the responsibility with implementing and applying it lies with EU member states.”

Given the current political climate across the European continent, we are still a long way from resolving the crisis. Last month member states agreed to take in only 32,000 asylum seekers.

Some, such as Ellie Mae O'Hagan in the Guardian, argue that mass migration will soon become “the new normal”.

“It’s also a question about being realistic about what is the situation that we are facing,” says Kadri Soova. “Eurostat project that by 2050, the EU will collectvely need about 50 million more workers, in particular in the low wages sector. What we see as a solution, is to revive the labour migration policy in member states.”

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