The missing link: The need for comprehensive engagement in regions of refugee origin
International Affairs , Volume 79 - Issue 3
Asylum policies in Britain and in the countries of its EU partners are failing to cope with the demands made upon them. With migration pressures mounting and opportunities for legal immigration to many EU states restricted, larger numbers of potential migrants are turning to alternative means of entry and access, namely irregular migration and asylum channels. The responses of states to these challenges have been to adopt more restrictive policies and practices that have considerably changed the balance between immigration control and refugee protection. While states have the right to control entry and enforce their borders, the restrictive measures that have come to dominate policymaking and recent immigration enforcement initiatives in Britain and its European partners do not sufficiently discriminate between asylum seekers and other kinds of migrants, thereby failing to safeguard the right of refugees to seek protection. Current British proposals to move asylum seekers to 'safe areas' in regions of origin fail to understand the burdens, pressures and priorities of countries in the regions, fail to ensure effective protection for those in need, and are unlikely to deliver the UK policy objective of substantially reducing the numbers of illegal entries to Britain. What is needed is an approach that reduces the number of individuals seeking protection in Europe while maintaining the European tradition of providing asylum to those in genuine need. The 'missing link' in asylum policy that would respond both to the concerns of states and to the protection needs of refugees is more comprehensive engagement in regions of refugee origin. It is in this way that western asylum countries, including the UK, may best address the challenge of providing international protection to victims of persecution and respond to their own concerns about asylum.