The EU's so-called Mediterranean refugee crisis

A governmentality of unease in a teacup

Authored by: Elspeth Guild

The Routledge Handbook of Critical European Studies

Print publication date:  December  2020
Online publication date:  December  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138589919
eBook ISBN: 9780429491306
Adobe ISBN:


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In 2015–2016 at the height of the Syrian civil war, approximately 2 million Syrian refugees (and others) crossed the Mediterranean from Turkey to Greece and walked north in search of durable protection. This led to a political crisis in the EU notwithstanding the fact that the numbers involved were very small in comparison with the Syrian refugees being hosted elsewhere in the region – in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. In the EU, the political unwillingness to provide reception to the new arrivals led to the exceptional closing of some border crossing points between Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway in an effort to deflect refugees from seeking asylum on their territory. This consequence was surprising, a shock to the Schengen system of no border controls at internal frontiers of these states, and to the Common European Asylum System, a political project which had been underway since 1999. Yet, the capacity of some political actors successfully to instrumentalise migration and asylum as sources of instability and potential threat is apparent in the political reaction to these events.

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