Comparing Europe's Response to Yugoslav and Syrian Refugees in the 1990s and 2010s

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
East Quad Lecture Theatre (University of Glasgow)
Irial Glynn , History, Leiden University
Various media organizations, politicians and research bodies (e.g. OECD 2015) have claimed in recent years that Europe is facing an unprecedented refugee crisis due to a notable rise in asylum applications. This paper aims to test such a notion by comparing and contrasting how Europe reacted to the arrival of refugees from civil wars in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and Syria more recently. I will concentrate on analyzing four principle factors to identify significant similarities and differences between the case studies: 1) the scale of the refugee ‘crisis’ facing Europe, 2) the visibility of each crisis, 3) the political response throughout Europe, and 4) the reaction from the European Union. I will argue that what is happening today is not entirely exceptional. Similar numbers of people applied for asylum in Europe in both periods. The same states bore most of the burden (Germany and Sweden) and the same states shunned coordination measures (UK, France). Nevertheless, the more recent refugee crisis was more visible because of the drama associated with what occurred on the Mediterranean. Political debates also became more security- and culturally-orientated, reflecting the upsurge in support for anti-immigration political parties within Europe in the interim. The EU’s role also changed as asylum law became more Europeanised – in response to the fallout from the Yugoslav refugee crisis, thereby creating a stronger human rights dimension. Yet states still remained the primary actors involved and coordination continued to prove problematic.
  • Glynn+How the spectre of Yugoslavia looms over EU's handling of refugee crisis.docx (89.7 kB)