The Brooking Institute hosted speakers from the Center on the United States and Europe on November 18, 2015 to discuss the intricacies of the Syrian refugee situation and analyze how European countries are handling the influx of migrants. The conversation was led by Fiona Hill, Director at the Center on the United States and Europe and featured Mateo Garavoglia, a Visiting Fellow from the Center on the United States and Europe, and Natalie Tocci, Deputy Director of the Instituto Affari Internazionali. Ms. Hill opened the conversation by describing how countries accepting refugees find difficulty distinguishing refugees from terrorists. Despite the fear inspired by the November 13, 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, Ms. Hill reminded the audience of how important it is to differentiate between refugees and terrorists.
Mr. Garavoglia focused his remarks on the economic and cultural difference dividing Eastern and Western Europe. There is a geographical dichotomy between the East and West, with countries like Germany and Sweden standing with “open arms” to incoming refugees, while countries like Hungary setting up borders to block out incoming refugees. For countries like Poland, the Paris attacks gave reason to refuse accepting altogether. In addition to geographical dichotomy, there is also an institutional dichotomy. Providing food, shelter, education, and other aid require serious logistical and economic capacity. So while some European states are establishing refugee resettlement programs, other states are dragging their feet.
Ms. Tocci put the conversation in perspective by pointing out that Turkey has taken in almost 3 million refugees thus far. Therefore, she argues, European states should be able to take collectively accept another 2 or 3 million refugees. Ms. Tocci also alluded to the impact of the Paris attacks on neighboring countries. Since the November 13th attacks, heightened security measures have been put in place, and the European Union has begun discussing the possibility of establishing a European Coast Guard. The conversation ended with a plea for all countries take a humanitarian approach to refugees because there seems to be no end in sight to the crisis.