The EU’s refugee ‘crisis’: Framing policy failure as an opportunity for success

Special report: A new look at EU internal security: Insights from the tools of the sociology of public action
By Ariadna Ripoll Servent

The refugee ‘crisis’ has been presented as a failure of the EU’s asylum policy. Yet, which kind of failure are we actually talking about? Is it a failure to deal with the external pressures that saw the number of asylum-seekers raise drastically or rather a failure to build a fully-functioning common asylum system? This article examines the strategies of policy-makers to frame the crisis either ‘as threat’ or ‘as opportunity’, concentrating on the failed proposal to relocate asylum-seekers across EU member states. The analysis looks at whether causes are framed as exogenous or endogenous to the EU and where blame is principally attributed. It seeks to develop existing models of policy failure and make them better suited to the EU’s particular institutional setting by drawing on strategic framing models and the Multiple Streams Framework. This new approach allows us to go deeper into the causes of ‘crises’ and to better understand the mechanisms linking ‘crises’ with policy solutions.

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