Managing the unmanageable? Understanding Europe’s response to the migration ‘crisis'

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    More than 1 million people have crossed the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas since January 2015, arriving on the beaches of Southern Europe in dinghies and rickety boats, having paid a smuggler to facilitate their journey. Most are refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, and Somalia who are fleeing conflict and violence. Others are migrants from West and Central Africa, seeking a livelihood and a future for themselves and their families. This paper will unpack the evolution of the European policy response, arguing that the migration ‘crisis’ is not a reflection of numbers – which pale into insignificance relative to the number of refugees in other countries outside Europe or to those moving in and out of Europe on tourist, student and work visas – but rather a crisis of political solidarity. After five emergency summits to agree a common response, EU politicians are still struggling to come to terms with the dynamics of migration to Europe, the complexity of motivations driving people forward, the role of different institutions, including governments, international organizations, NGOs and civil society, in facilitating the journey, and the ways in which social media is providing individuals and families with information about the options and possibilities that are, or are not, available to them. I suggest that the unwillingness of politicians and policymakers to engage with research evidence on the dynamics of migration and to harness their combined resources to address the consequences of conflict and underdevelopment elsewhere, speaks more strongly to the current state of the European Union than it does to the realities of contemporary migration.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)13-23
    Number of pages11
    JournalHuman Geography
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2016


    • migration
    • Europe
    • crisis
    • politics and public policy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Political Science and International Relations


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