Asylum at the Levels of the State and the European Union

Wallstrom addresses consequences of asylum at the state level (Sweden) and the European Union (EU) level. Wallstrom discusses several reasons for the policy by which the burden of caring for the refugees via asylum is distributed: (1) humanity (the most important priority when considering how asylum should be rendered), (2) democracy, (3) upholding human rights, (4) solidarity, (5) community, (6) responsibility, (7) common values – particularly among the states in the EU and (8) asylum as a right afforded to all people. Refugees and migrants are people. So, Sweden extends the right of asylum to refugees and migrants. Wallstrom also cited that in addition to Sweden, Germany had accepted refugees in the past. Are the reasons for the policy by which the burden of caring for the refugees via asylum compelling? They are, due to utilitarian principles that dictate optimum happiness (pleasure) and minimization of misery (pain) should be the ideal.[1] Utilitarianism is sought at several levels: (1) the policymaker, (2) the state, and (3) the EU.

RefugeesImage: Latin Hospital, Pancaldi near Constantinople: refugee dispensary. Wood engraving. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Policymakers and states minimize their guilt about potential consequences of a lack of action, including: (1) refugee poverty, (2) persecution and death in their home countries, (3) negative will within the EU for not being a cooperative state, and (4) negative international opinion in the refugee crisis by acting to protect the refugees. Distributive justice is exercised in the EU by assigning quotas of refugees to states based upon certain criteria and characteristics of the states in a way that ideally maximizes utility among the EU members.[2] Yes, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic may not feel their interests are being advanced. They feel migrants are being “forced” upon them despite the fact that they voted to not accept them. Just because Sweden and Germany were able to successfully take on refugees, it doesn’t necessarily mean the same will be true in the countries that voted against taking refugees. However, the values upon which Wallstrom bases her argument dictate that the welfare of the EU and refugees as a whole is the greater good and will maximize utility.

Dorkina Myrick, MD, PhD, MPP, is a physician-scientist and pathologist trained at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Myrick also previously served as a Senior Health Policy Advisor on the United States Senate.  She obtained her Master of Public Policy degree at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Dr. Myrick is currently a JD candidate at the Boston University School of Law.


[1] Bentham, Jeremy. Principles of Morals and Legislation. 1789

[2] Kirby, Nikolas. “Justice and Equality.” (Lecture). Michaelmas 2015. University of Oxford.


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