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«Open Arms Behind Barred Doors: Fear, Hypocrisy and Policy Schizophrenia in the European Migration Crisis Kelly M. Greenhill* Abstract: In 2015, over ...»

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European Law Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3, May 2016, pp. 317–332.

© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK

and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

Open Arms Behind Barred Doors: Fear,

Hypocrisy and Policy Schizophrenia in the

European Migration Crisis

Kelly M. Greenhill*

Abstract: In 2015, over one million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe, laying bare the

limitations of the EU’s common border control and burden-sharing systems. This article examines consequences of the EU’s disjoint, schizophrenic and, at times, hypocritical responses to what has become known as the European migration crisis. It explains how unilateral, national-level responses have made the EU as a whole particularly susceptible to a unique brand of coercive bargaining that relies on the threat (or actual generation) of mass population movements as a non-military instrument of state-level coercion. After outlining who employs this kind of foreign policy tool, to what ends, and under what circumstances, the article offers an illustration of this kind of coercion in action, by analyzing the March 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey. The article concludes with a discussion of broader con- sequences of the deal and implications both for the displaced and for the EU going forward.

I Introduction During 2015, more than one million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe, about half of whom were fleeing the civil war in Syria and about one third of whom were seeking political asylum. The question of who should bear responsibility for the new arrivals and how those responsibilities should be shared generated very different, sometimes schizophrenic, policy responses among European Union (EU) member states, with many states prioritizing na- tional interests over European solidarity. These divergent national responses generated fierce political debates over legal and normative obligations to the displaced within and across member states. In many capitals, these debates also (re-)kindled national divisions in ways that redounded strikingly to the benefit of right-wing, nationalist political parties.

The lack of EU solidarity and absence of a collective response to the humanitarian and political challenges imposed by the influx further laid bare the limitations of common bor- der control and migration and refugee burden-sharing systems that have never been wholly and satisfactorily implemented.1 By year’s end, half a dozen members of the Schengen Zone had unilaterally reinstituted internal border controls under the ‘excep- tional circumstances’ provision of the Article 26 of the Borders Code.2 Other states, such as Hungary, erected physical barriers to entry along borders with non-Schengen states.

* Associate Professor at Tufts University and Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Harvard University, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

S. Fratzke, ‘Not adding up: the fading promise of Europe’s Dublin system’, Migration Policy Institute Report 1

–  –  –

In part in response to these acute stresses and strains on the common European enterprise, in early January 2016, European Council President Donald Tusk declared that the EU had no more than 2 months to save its passport-free Schengen Zone and maybe even the union itself.

A failure to find a solution could, Tusk warned, lead to the EU failing as a political project.3 Should Tusk’s dire prognostications come to pass, it would not be the first time that a mass migration catalysed a fundamental reconfiguration of the international political landscape. The mass exodus of East Germans to Austria through Czechoslovakia and Hungary in the summer of 1989, for instance, impelled the German Democratic Republic to open its western borders, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunication of East and West Germany.4 While the exodus from East to West did not happen in a political vacuum, it was in the end a mass migration, rather than a military invasion, that destroyed East Germany, sounded the death knell for the Warsaw Pact and prefigured the end of the Cold War and ultimately the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Whether a similar fate could befall the EU is as of this writing an open question. What is certain, however, is that both recent and proposed EU member state responses to the recent unregulated influx—including mass detentions and deportations, unilateral border closures and calls for foreign military action—illustrate anew the potential power of unregulated migration to make people and governments feel insecure and under threat. British Prime Minister David Cameron invoked insects when he warned of a ‘swarm’ of ‘illegal migrants’ invading Europe,5 while Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared that, ‘from a European perspective, the number of potential future immigrants seems limitless, [and most new arrivals] are not Christians, but Muslims’. Orbán further added that the refugees entering Europe ‘look like an army’.6 For his part, Polish Law and Justice Party official and former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski warned that Muslim refugees would bring parasites and diseases to the local population,7 while the leader of the Sweden Democrats Jimmie Åkesson declared that that ‘Islamism is the Nazism and Communism of our time’.8 Against the backdrop of what happened in 1989, these none too novel examples of inflammatory rhetoric, coupled with Tusk’s stark warning about the potential dangers facing the EU as a political unit, dramatically underscore the inconvenient, and oft ignored, truth that military assaults are far from the only way to undermine already fragile political bargains and governance arrangements (or to make citizens feel endangered, afraid and reactionary). Fears of irregular (mass) migration can also do so, and do so at great potential cost to states’ leaders and to the laws, values and human right norms they are (at least ostensibly) committed to uphold.





‘Tusk gives the EU two months to “save Schengen”’, EuroNews, 19 January 2016; available at http://www.

3 euronews.com/2016/01/19/tusk-gives-the-eu-two-months-to-save-schengen/.; ‘Schengen to Fail in Months if Migration Crisis not “Under Control”, says Tusk’, DW.com, 19 January 2016; available at http://www.

dw.com/en/schengen-to-fail-in-months-if-migration-crisis-not-under-control-says-tusk/a-18989697.

4 Somewhat ironically, it was German reunification and the vibrant German economic engine that allowed the EU to grow into the world’s largest economy and such an attractive destination in the decades since reunification.

‘David Cameron insists describing migrants as a “swarm” Wasn’t “dehumanising”’, The Telegraph, 15 August 5 2015, available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/11804861/David-Cameronsays-describing-migrants-as-a-swarm-wasnt-dehumanising.html.

‘Refugees “look like an army”, says Hungarian PM Viktor Orban’, The Guardian, 23 October 2015, available at 6 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/23/refugees-look-like-an-army-says-hungarian-pm-viktor-orban.

‘Right-wing Polish leader Kaczynski says migrants carry diseases to Europe’, US News and World Report, 15 7 October 2015, available at http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/10/14/right-wing-polishleader-migrants-carry-diseases-to-europe.

‘Anti-immigrant Sweden democrats now the biggest party, according to poll’,The Telegraph, 20 August 2015, 8 available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/sweden/11814498/Anti-immigrant-SwedenDemocrats-now-the-biggest-party-according-to-poll.html.

–  –  –

In some respects, it may seem odd that many within the EU appear to feel so besieged by and fearful of the ongoing influx from the Middle East and beyond. From the dispassionate perspective of absolute numbers, such a reaction can seem overwrought. While significantly larger than the 280,000 who arrived the year before, the one million who came to Europe in 2015 comprise but a tiny percentage of the more than 60 million people displaced around the world.9 As a percentage of the EU population of circa 509 million, the size of the influx is smaller still. But responsibilities for shouldering the monetary, social and political costs of recent inflows into the EU have not been equally shared, anything but. (As of this writing, Germany has, for instance, absorbed the largest number of refugees in absolute terms, while Sweden has taken in the largest number on a per capita basis.

Some other member states have not accepted any refugees at all). At the same time, frontline states along the EU’s southern border, such as Italy and Greece, have also been bearing particularly significant burdens. These states have served as the key entry points (and due to the Dublin Regulations, holding and processing areas) for the vast majority of new arrivals. Brussels has been markedly slow in providing much needed aid to frontline states as well as in facilitating promised resettlement of migrants and refugees to other parts of the EU, creating bottlenecks and turning these ill-equipped states into vast holding camps, which Greek ministers refer to as ‘a cemetery of souls.’10 Uncertainty regarding if and when adequate EU assistance will be forthcoming, and what the future might bring in terms of further inflows, has inspired significant migration-related fears and anxieties within frontline states. These same fears have encouraged some within frontline states to ignore Dublin Regulation requirements and allow migrants and refugees to transit through their countries unregistered (and unimpeded) to countries further north, fostering and effectively expediting an informal, alternative method of intra-EU burden-sharing, which has in turn raised anxieties and heightened fears in non-frontline states as well.11 In any case, a focus on numbers obscures the fact that what constitutes a threat—be it security, economic, social or cultural—is as much a matter of perception as of objective reality, and that such perceptions can, and indeed frequently are, exploited by enterprising actors willing to play on such fears. Indeed, as first detailed in my 2010 book, Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion and Foreign Policy, using displaced people as instruments of foreign policy is a relatively common feature of international politics.

This unconventional brand of coercion has been attempted more than 70 times since the advent of the 1951 Refugee Convention alone, that is, at least one per year on average, ‘Why is the EU struggling with migrants and asylum?’, BBC.com, 3 March 2016, available at http://www.bbc.

9 com/news/world-europe-24583286; UNHCR, Global trends: forced displacement in 2014, available at www.

unhcr.org/2014trends/. Also refer to UNHCR, ‘UNHCR Warns of Dangerous New Era in Worldwide Displacement as Report Shows Almost 60 million People Forced to Flee Their Homes’, 18 June 2015, available at www.unhcr.org/55813f0e6.html.

Quoted in M. Holehouse, ‘Greece faces being sealed off from Europe to stop migrant flow in move that creates 10 ‘cemetery of souls’,’ The Guardian, 25 January 2016, available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/ europe/eu/12119799/Greece-threatened-with-expulsion-from-Schengen-free-movement-zone.html.

11 Ibid. In September 2015, the European Commission proposed a review of Dublin as well as a quota system aimed at more equitably distributing the burden of refugees and asylum-seekers by relocating new arrivals from frontline states across the EU. (The number of refugees each member state would absorb would depend upon GDP, population size, unemployment rate and asylum applications already processed.) The plan would theoretically relocate 120,000 refugees over a two-year period. However, that numbers comprises only a tiny fraction of the number of refugees and asylum-seekers expected to arrive by the end of 2016. Moreover, the number formally resettled in 2015 was only 190, despite pledges to relocate almost 200,000. R. Goldman, ‘No end in sight’, New York Times, 3 February 2016, available at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/ 2016/02/04/world/europe/migrant-crisis-by-the-numbers.html.

319 © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

May 2016 European Migration Crisis and it has been undertaken in that time by dozens of discrete challengers against at least as many disparate targets and, by extension, against an equally large number of victimized groups—that is, the displaced themselves.12 Such episodes include both war and peacetime use, by both state and non-state actors, in the service of objectives as diverse as financial assistance on one end of the spectrum to full-scale military invasion and regime change on the other. Moreover, in approximately three-quarters of all identified cases, coercers have succeeded in achieving at least some of their objectives; approximately 57% of the time, they have achieved most if not all of their stated objectives.13 But how and why does using people as instruments of foreign policy ever work, and how, if at all, do current events in Europe fit within historical patterns?

In the pages that follow, I briefly sketch the outlines of the theory first presented in Weapons of Mass Migration as well as provide capsule descriptions of who engages in this kind of coercion and to what ends. I then offer an illustration of this kind of coercion in action by analysing the March 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey and what drove the EU to concede to a number of Turkey’s political and economic demands. I conclude with a discussion of some of the broader consequences of the deal and implications both for the displaced and for the EU going forward.

II Weaponizing Migration: Who, Why and For What Purpose?



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