Refugees and Immigrants
in the New Europe
No issue facing Europe is as explosive, and seemingly intractable, as that of migration and refugee policy. Much of the euphoria about a new Europe initially promised by the collapse of communism has dissipated, having given way to growing despair, anger, and frustration. One of the main reasons for this is the apparent inability to cope with relatively large movement of persons across borders.
If there are about 17 million persons in the world who have fled across international boundaries to escape persecution or political unrest, one can say that only about 5% of these are in Europe. 1 Nevertheless, relative to European history, the number of those presenting themselves for political asylum and a safe haven in Europe is certainly large enough to be troubling to segments of European nations. About 500,000 presented themselves for asylum in 1990, and the annual numbers since then have been even higher because of events in the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. 2 Probably as many if not more have simply migrated illegally without claims to being refugees (fleeing persecution) or being in a refugee-like situation (fleeing armed conflict). 3 The situation in Eastern Europe is different, but no less serious or potentially disruptive. On the one hand, several East European countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and in particular Hungary) already have had to contend with large-scale human migrations from neighboring countries such as Romania and the former Yugoslavia. 4