The EU Response to the 2015 Refugee Flows: A Missed Opportunity to Use the Temporary Protection Directive?

  • Lara Krayem


Following the mass influx of people in Europe after 2011 and the Arab Spring uprisings, Europe has been admitting refugees into its borders predominantly under the Dublin III Regulation. However, Dublin III was never intended to be an emergency tool for asylum seekers, but became one as most entries take place through irregular routes.

Europe received around 1.3 million asylum seekers in 2015 which is the highest number of asylum applications in its history. Questions are raised as to why Europe refrained from using the Temporary Protection Directive which serves exactly the purpose of establishing minimum standards for giving temporary protection and promoting a balance of efforts between Members States when receiving displaced persons. This Directive arguably provides a solution for the burden sharing issues that Europe has been facing which cause the rise of nationalism in many border States such as Italy and Greece as they are the main hosts of asylum seekers.

Europe has also been entering into questionable agreements such as the EU-Turkey deal that does not necessarily comply with International Humanitarian Laws or jus cogens principles such as non-refoulement. Europe’s avoidance of the use of the Temporary Protection Directive raises a lot of questions. It brings to the surface the politics that surround the asylum process of the European Union and sheds light on the growing need of the EU to close its borders and avoid offering protection to people in need. This notion of border strengthening controls seems to be growing. As a result, the Union continues to use questionable agreements and the implementation of the Dublin III Regulation as an emergency measure instead of using the Temporary Protection Directive to promote fair sharing and solidarity.

This article will examine the reasons behind the non-implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive to demonstrate that Europe does not wish to assist asylum seekers but keep them out of its territory. Moreover, this article supports that the mass influx of asylum seekers during the Arab-Spring uprisings was a missed opportunity to activate the Directive that has now become obsolete as it is unlikely to ever be activated.


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