More Diplomacy, More Humanity: The European Union Approach in Dealing with the Migration Crisis

Do you remember when our television screens and newspapers were full of pictures of migrants struggling and dying trying to get to Europe?

We saw families carrying children, pushing aged relatives in a wheelchair from mile after mile. People pressing through border crossings or trying to board cramp trains. They were horrifying images of shipwrecks, wretched people from the sea, and bodies of those who couldn’t be saved . . . like Alan Kurdi?*

Upon arriving at the European Parliament in Brussels for my internship, it didn’t take long for me to feel connected to the passions of time, which was the migration crisis of 2015. For me, it was a perfect match for two reasons. First, as an African immigrant to the United States of America, I know what it means to live one’s beloved country for greener pastures elsewhere. Second, as someone interested in affecting global social change via the lenses of international law, human rights, and nation building, I believe that the European Union response to the migration crisis offered me the opportunity to understand the complex nuances of immigration policy, human rights, and diplomatic politics.

While I hope to intricately apply these thematic ideas in this essay, I also seek to show how more diplomacy and more humanitarian approach from the European Union and its member states initiated a sustainable policy in addressing the migration crisis. The assertions below will represent my enriching experience learning about the EU, its diplomatic dealings and policy towards the migration crisis.

The surge

The migration crisis tested humanity resolve to itself and more importantly, for the European Union, it tested its foundational principles. Nonetheless, as with every global problem, finding a common solution proved daunting. And the European Union as a supranational institution was not an exemption to these difficulties. As the movement of migrants spread across Europe, several member states became timid and intolerant in accepting migrants across their borders. This momentum and strong resistant made the work of the European Union even more challenging.

While EU countries work on getting a decisive policy for dealing with the crisis, migrants continued to make the perilous journey to Europe by the Mediterranean Sea. In 2015, the death of a three-year-old Alan Kurdi, who died in the Mediterranean alongside 3, 700 others trying to get to Europe truly exemplifies the hardships of thousands of migrants fleeing to Europe. Also in the following year, an estimated 5,000 people died trying to fulfill a life-long dream of getting to Europe, and earning a better life for themselves and their families. Unarguably, it is too late for the ones that have lost their lives making this journey, however, it is not too late for the millions of other in the process. In reflection, and in hindsight, a year and a half after finishing my internship at the European Parliament, I believe it was for the EU’s continued resilience to the crisis and Europeans humanity that led to the mitigation of the crisis. While it is self-evident that the dilemmas and ever-changing scope of the migration crisis continue to be of concern for the EU, I also believe that it was for the European Union deep engagement and humanitarian approach that made all the difference.

As an African, getting to learn about the EU’s swift engagement with the migration crisis forced me to stop and ask: What if my country, Sierra Leone, or better yet, the African continent can react and engage with the salient issues facing its people in similar ways? Understandably, the EU’s determination to help these migrants and mitigate the crisis is worthy of emulation.

EU’s response

Irregular migration and forced displacement of people in Europe and broadly speaking, the world at large is not just a crisis but a test of our character. While this test is ongoing and ever-changing, nations, intergovernmental institutions like the EU and the international community have also adapted or are adapting to its challenges.

The European Union, upon realizing and recognizing that the migration crisis is one of a shared responsibility of country of origin, transit and destination, worked diligently to offer a remedy. Also, the EU sought partnership with African leaders and with EU member states to put forward an action plan. This plan, promulgated in November 2015 at the Valletta Summit on immigration in Malta sets the stage for a practical engagement with the crisis. Although, not comprehensive enough to solve the crisis as yet, however, it was a step in the right direction for the European Union.

Key propositions of this plan were centered around the notion of “shared responsibility” of which parties involve geographically, diplomatically and politically can play an integral role in curbing the flow of irregular migration. The plan put forwards several ideas, and summation of its key components is pivotal here. First, it proposes that the EU will work to address the root causes of migration and forced displacement. Second, enhance cooperation on legal migration and mobility with member states. Third, reinforce the protection of migrants and asylum seekers. Fourth, prevent and fight irregular migration, migrant smuggling, and trafficking of human beings. And finally, offered a platform to work more closely to improve cooperation on return, readmission, and reintegration of migrants.



At the beginning of this paper, I boldly set out to show how the European Union policy of more diplomacy and more humanitarian approach led to the mitigation of the negative trend of irregular migration. Undoubtedly, the action plan has done just that: mitigate the trend of the migration crisis. Although, the threats of irregular migration have by no means ended, however, it self-evident that the EU approach to the crisis has set the stage for a forward thinking and comprehensive approach to dealing with the root causes of irregular migration.

*BBC Inquiry

This article and written and published for my MEP’s blog in 2017, two years after my internship at the European Parliament. Link here:

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