Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1265: The Refugee Crisis and the Reinvigoration of the Nation State: Does the European Union Have a Common Asylum Policy?

Magnus Henrekson (), Özge Öner () and Tino Sanandaji ()
Additional contact information
Magnus Henrekson: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
Özge Öner: University of Cambridge, Department of Land Economy, Postal: and Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Stockholm, Sweden
Tino Sanandaji: Institute for Economic and Business History Research, Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: The European Union officially proclaims to have a common asylum policy. However, the common treaties leave a great deal of discretion to the individual member countries, which allow them to regulate refugee migration while still upholding international treaties. Member countries have authority over border controls, the processing of asylum applications as well as economic benefits provided to refugees. We show that the differences in refugee flows are so extensive and systematic that the existence of a common EU asylum policy is debatable. The commitments made by the member countries are largely voluntary, and asylum policy is mainly determined at the national level. The discrepancies between the member countries strongly signal that the European Union may not be an optimal region for a common asylum policy. An asylum policy should instead be determined at the national level concordant with the regional and local level, where integration measures are implemented in practice. Meanwhile, the European Union can play an important role through refugee aid to afflicted countries, treaties with third countries, rescue actions in the Mediterranean and control of the external EU borders.

Keywords: Asylum policy; Asylum seekers; European Union; Migration policy; Refugee crisis; Schengen Agreement

JEL-codes: F22; F53; J61; K37

28 pages, First version: February 26, 2019. Revised: August 23, 2019. Earlier revisions: August 18, 2019.

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