In recent years, the number of people seeking refuge has risen to its highest level since the end of World War II. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 85% of forcibly displaced people live in developing countries. In light of these developments, the United Nations General Assembly plans to adopt a new Global Compact on Refugees in December. It aims to strengthen solidarity with refugees and host countries and provide a basis for predictable and equitable burden- and responsibility-sharing among all United Nations member states.
At the same time, European policy-makers are deeply divided on the goals of migration and asylum policies and the means by which to achieve them. Some countries are seeking to establish a truly European burden-sharing mechanism, whereas others oppose any such integration effort. With its introduction of measures to strengthen border controls and thus prevent illegal immigration, Europe has also created obstacles for asylum-seekers pursuing their right to protection. In the absence of safe routes to Europe, thousands of people have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in recent years.
The Global Compact is not legally binding, but will need voluntary contributions from member states and other stakeholders if it is to be equal to the current challenges. What is Europe’s responsibility towards refugees on a global scale? How can Europe demonstrate solidarity and contribute to the burden-sharing with developing countries? What are the prospects of a compromise in Europe’s internal debate? What further integration steps are needed to fulfil European obligations towards the UN refugee regime?