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Cooperation on regional and global issues

56 - Relations with the US on migration and refugees

Grade: C+
Unity 2/5
Resources 3/5
Strategy 2/5
Impact 2/5
Total 9/20

Efforts to internationalise the refugee crisis have proven difficult as the US domestic politics of Syria become toxic

The refugee crisis hit the EU hard in autumn 2015. As detailed elsewhere in this Scorecard, EU nations took dramatically different approaches to the refugee crisis, with Germany opening its gates while several Eastern, Central, and Southern European countries took a tougher line. However, the EU has sought to internationalise the problem and persuade other nations, including the US, to help – both individually and through the UN.

In response to the deteriorating situation in Syria, the US announced that it would increase the number of refugees it accepts from around the world to 85,000 in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017, although only 10,000 would be admitted immediately from Syria. This number could fall due to a lengthy and arduous application and vetting process, made all the more difficult by toxic domestic politics. This number will not alleviate the pressure on European countries. Even if the target is reached, it will still be dwarfed by the numbers arriving in Germany, and Europe in general. The primary challenge still lies in tackling the source of the problem, where little progress has been made.

The aftermath of the Paris and San Bernardino, California, terror attacks had a negative effect on the US refugee debate asit swung firmly against taking in large numbers of refugees from Syria, although the administration has strongly defended its position. Refugee policy was traditionally an area of bipartisan agreement, and its politicisation will jeopardise funding and the necessary support required on Capitol Hill. For their part, US officials and experts are alarmed by the impact of the refugee crisis on European politics and are particularly concerned that it could result in the departure of Merkel as German leader.