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EU-Turkey deal continues to paper over vast cracks in Europe's asylum system, report warns
Press Release
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

EU-Turkey deal continues to paper over vast cracks in Europe's asylum system, report warns

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s deal with Turkey—signed two years ago this week—may have helped to drastically reduce the numbers of migrants coming to Europe, but a new Migration Policy Institute Europe report warns that the bloc’s asylum system is still afflicted with many of the chronic weaknesses that exacerbated the 2015-16 crisis. And without a fundamental change in its thinking, the European Union risks repeating its mistakes if flows surge anew.

The report, Cracked Foundation, Uncertain Future: Structural weaknesses in the Common European Asylum System, argues that front-line institutions were unable to deal with the rapid increase in arrivals in late 2015 largely as a result of years of underinvestment combined with poor system design.

But rather than increase funding or improve organisation, policymakers have experimented with quick fixes such as resurrecting border controls, looked beyond the bloc's borders for help, passed legislation that has had unintended consequences in other parts of the system or proposed revisions to the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

The biggest commitment of all is the deal with Turkey, so far costing 1.85 billion euros, with a further 4.15 billion euros in the pipeline. The European Commission said last week that the agreement had 'consistently delivered tangible results', but MPI Europe's research suggests the wider system remains in dire need of new thinking.

‘Structural deficiencies—both legal and operational—are baked into the very DNA of the CEAS and have long undermined Europe’s ability to manage asylum flows in a humane and efficient manner’, said MPI Europe Associate Director Hanne Beirens. ‘These shortcomings cannot be addressed in a piecemeal way. Doing so may in fact have a destabilising effect on asylum and related systems—especially when there is little oversight or evaluation’.

Although CEAS reform is necessary, policymakers must also take action to improve the way the system works on the ground, the report argues. Governments should form task forces that work across policy areas; the European Union could appoint an official or body to coordinate operations; and any attempt to evaluate asylum policies must take into account the entire system, not just a single part.

The report marks the launch of the Making Asylum Systems Work in Europe initiative led by MPI Europe and the Bertelsmann Stiftung, in cooperation with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Migration Studies Delegation, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development and the Institute of Public Affairs. The initiative, which will feature a pair of overarching reports and several country case studies, aims to contribute to the capacity building of national asylum systems so they can function more effectively.

Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/structural-weaknesses-common-european-asylum-system.