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The root of the European refugee crisis and why responsibility should be shared

Pressure is mounting on leaders of the European Union (EU) to develop a coherent response and prevention plan after the disturbing deaths of one too many asylum seekers.

At least 2 600 people have died on the continent or at its borders seeking refuge in 2015 and the recent image of a Syrian toddler washed up on a Turkish beach has accelerated the global debate on the refugee crisis sweeping Europe.

CapeTalk and 702 presenter Redi Tlhabi spoke with Professor Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University.

Making meaning: 'Refugee' vs 'Migrant'

According to Betts, the importance of language has been highlighted in the conversation about the European crisis.

He says that it is critical for the global public to understand the difference between refugees and migrants because its speaks to more than just semantics, but rather addresses the social stigma associated with the identities.

Refugee: A refugee is an individual who has fled their country of origin in fear of conflict or persecution by the state. Refugee's are afforded legal rights by international laws and country's are held to certain obligations.

Migrant: A migrant is an umbrella term used refer to individuals who choose to to cross international borders out of their own will, for various reasons broader than compromised human rights.

The need for stronger protection in home states

According to Betts, the influx of refugees from countries such as Syria shows the failure of protection policies in home states.

The situation in Syria is underlying the European refugee crisis. There are millions of displaced Syrians, conflict has intensified and it is almost impossible for individuals to get access to human rights in-country.

Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University

He further adds that protection and assistance is declining in first contact countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, forcing them to journey on for refuge.

Lack of leadership and accountability

Betts advises that poor governance and a lack of intervention within fragile states has conflated the current refugee crisis.

There has been a complete moral and political failure to share responsibility for this crisis and to address conflict and fragile states. The United Nations Security Council has failed to find solutions and left responsibility to neighbouring countries.

Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University

Alexander Betts is Leopold Muller Professor in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and a Fellow of Green-Templeton College at the University of Oxford.

His research focuses on the international politics of asylum, migration and humanitarianism with a geographical focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Listen to the full conversation from The Redi Tlhabi Show:

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