Myth busting the refugee crisis

Writing in Tuesday’s Guardian newspaper, Daniel Trilling busts five myths about the refugee crisis in a long read that deconstructs some of the beliefs that shape policy and public opinion.

  • Myth 1. The crisis is over.
  • Myth 2. We can neatly separate ‘refugees’ from ‘economic migrants’
  • Myth 3. Telling ‘human stories’ is enough to change people’s minds.
  • Myth 4. The crisis is a threat to European values.
  • Myth 5. History is repeating and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Daniel reminds readers that the crisis did not begin with “a sharp rise in the number of people coming to Europe to claim asylum” and it did not end when numbers dropped.

“… many thousands are stuck in reception centres or camps in southern Europe, while others try to make new lives in the places they have settled.”

The author critiques the EU’s migration policy – “perhaps the world’s most complex system to deter unwanted migrants” – and border defences that “often produce or exacerbate the very problems they purport to solve, by forcing irregular migrants to take more dangerous routes, often with increasing reliance on people smugglers, which in turn encourages states to crack down even harder.”

Daniel also provides perspective:

“The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, says there are more people displaced by conflict in the world today than at any point since the second world war. This is true: an estimated 66 million people are currently displaced, either within their home countries or abroad. But 86% of these remain in the developing world, not in wealthy regions such as Europe. And despite recent conflicts, according to De Haas, refugees account for around 0.3% of the world’s population; a small and relatively stable proportion. The problem is one of resources and policy, not overwhelming numbers.”

It’s a sobering read spread over four and a half thousand words, a fraction of Daniel Trilling’s new book Lights In The Distance: Exile and Refuge at the Borders of Europe which explores the human experience of the ‘refugee crisis’ by following their journeys and considering what keeps people going, as they reach Europe’s frontiers, and after.