Date of Graduation

Winter 12-15-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Lindsay Gifford


In order to escape increasing political violence in the Middle East and Africa, many refugees are fleeing by sea to seek asylum in Europe. As a result, Europe has witnessed the highest influx of refugees since World War Two. European Union member states have scrambled for a solution, seemingly unable to form a collective response. The reemergence of nationalism amid the arrival of thousands of refugees not only clouds Europe’s moral compass, but also weakens the EU and its founding principles. In an effort to contribute to the protection of refugees and the EU and its values, this thesis aims to discover the factors inhibiting a collective European response to the refugee crisis.

I start by broadly explaining the crisis - highlighting main causes, routes into Europe, tragedies at sea, and past European efforts. Next, I elaborate on methodologies used during my fieldwork in Italy where I interviewed human rights professionals and refugees. The literature review uses notable theories such as Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” to explain the interaction between Europe and the arrival of non-European refugees. The data analysis features both qualitative and quantitative data collected from my fieldwork, highlighting demographic factors and economic benefits of migration in Europe. My findings indicate that the EU asylum system is counter-productive because it fails to address legal channels for refugees outside of Europe to seek asylum, and forces peripheral EU states to absorb majority of refugees on their own. I attribute the rise of nationalism to historical undertones and the paranoid preservation of cultural identity amongst relatively homogenous states. Finally, I end this paper with a list of policy recommendations that I believe can help protect both refugees and the EU.