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Imagine being a senior public manager in Brussels tasked with coordinating a joint response to the biggest-ever inflow of asylum seekers into the European Union (EU). Spurred by civil war in Syria and accelerated by the alleged ‘open invitation’ from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, more than a million asylum seekers entered Germany in 2015 alone. The sheer number took EU member state governments and EU agencies by surprise, overwhelming administrative capacity on all levels: the security procedures at the southern and eastern borders, with Greece being the major destination for the rickety boats carrying refugees; the processing methodologies in individual member states; and the (re)distribution processes between member states. In addition, political collaboration is put to the test like never before with countries deciding to ‘go it alone’ while ignoring treaties and political mores. This is occurring in a context of already severely stretched political ties, with the sovereign debt crisis and the near expulsion of Greece from the eurozone. Across the EU you have witnessed a surge of anti-migrant movements, some of them violent, fuelled by incidents of some asylum seekers engaging in criminal and subversive activities. Both traditional and new media eagerly reported on such behaviours and the backlash they provoked. Clearly, public resentment and administrative capacity breakdowns could be linked with the sudden explosion in the number of refugees seeking asylum.
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