As Europe continues to deal with its worst migration crisis since World War II, experts say the United States must be more engaged, and they call on Europe to reevaluate its migrant policies.
Hundreds of thousands of people are coming to Europe to escape violence or to find a better life. According to the International Organization for Migration more than half a million migrants crossed the Mediterranean this year to flee the war in Syria and other troubled spots to seek asylum in the European Union (EU). About 3,000 people drowned at sea.
"It’s a big crisis for Europe, but the numbers are big only from the perspective of Europeans, said Matteo Garavoglia, an expert at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe.
"Lebanon alone is taking more than 1.5 million. Turkey is taking over two million people."
Nonetheless European countries are calling for help.
"The humanitarian consequences of changing policy in Europe are very large and there are a lot of costs and benefits, and they give a way on both sides on how to deal with this problem whether Europeans have to bear this burden entirely or whether they should share it with the United States or other countries around the world," said Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh.
Can the US do more?
Pope Francis appealed to U.S. lawmakers to help migrants and refugees during his recent visit to Washington, saying that when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.
Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that "as a nation we bear some responsibility for what’s happening." Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, added, "We are going to have to take in refugees here."
But Brookings Institution analyst Garavoglia pointed out that the U.S. asylum process is slow and the number of Syrians and other refugees is low, given the size of the United States and the fact that smaller European countries are taking far more people.
"I am talking about 1 million refugees and that would start to be helpful," said Garavoglia.
Cato Institute analyst Alex Nowrasteh agreed the U.S. should do more.
"The United States needs to play a role on accepting more of these refugees into the United States," he said.
Quotas: One piece of the puzzle
One solution for dealing with the crisis is to allocate refugees to individual EU countries by using a system of quotas. Garavoglia warned that quotas will not solve the problem.
"It’s just one piece of a jigsaw," he said.
Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute pointed out that "Quotas revealed the divisions in Europe."
Ministers of interior of the EU member countries agreed upon allocation of the first 120,000 refugees by the majority vote. But the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania opposed the measure.
"This is unusual," said Garavoglia. "Because the tradition is always to find a consensus without going to a vote," he said.
The United States is calling for a Europe-wide solution in which all EU states participate. "Quotas have been necessary to get countries to take their share of refugees," said analyst Kathleen Newland. But passage of the quota system lead to popular protests in Slovakia and Hungary.
The Slovak Republic will mount a legal defense against the resettlement quotas and file a complaint with the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice over the September 22. decision.
"They can, of course, do that," said Garavoglia, "I would be surprised if they would do it in the end, because they would lose. What was done was politically difficult but absolutely legal," he said.
Safe zones could save lives
Some EU countries proposed setting up safe zones for migrants and refugees. For example, Slovakia supports temporary safe zones in third countries, stronger action against human trafficking, and more collaboration among national intelligence services.
"We're pushing for comprehensive, long-term and sustainable solutions," said Slovak’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Miroslav Lajcak.
Stephanie Fitzmaurice at the U.S. embassy in Slovakia noted that the U.S. government believes that the international community has a fundamental obligation to come together to help Syrians, and all other refugee populations who are seeking safety.
The Migration Policy Institute's Newland says safe zones theoretically are a good idea.
"It’s a big military challenge to establish the safe zones but it’s a military intervention and countries of the West have been worried about doing that," she said.
According to the Brookings Institution’s Matteo Garavoglia, safe zones are difficult to establish in logistical and in practical terms.
"Secondly, these would undermine the principal that has been established since the Second World War, which is the right of any person worldwide to request the right for application to be recognized as an asylum seeker by crossing international borders."
Long term solution? Cooperation.
Most analysts agree that the long-term solution is a unified approach to the crisis.
"Migration is a challenge that no single country in Europe can handle effectively," said Garavoglia. "So either we shift the answer and our thinking to the European dimension or we would not be able to manage this effectively."
One solution might be to simplify the EU asylum process and allow asylum seekers to apply while outside the EU. Garavoglia noted that there are proposals to set up a European border guard and coast guard, to centralize border enforcement across the European Union.
"And beyond that to eventually scrap completely border guards in terms of sea, land and at airports around Europe and have a single European border force managed centrally from Brussels," he said.