Why shouldn’t stateless people have travel documents? Last year, more than 3,000 people died at Europe’s borders or within its territories. But the tragedy and chaos of the throngs flooding into Europe are completely avoidable. Refugees pay smugglers up to 1,000 euros to get them from Turkey to Greece, yet a budget flight to Germany costs only 200 euros.
A humanitarian visa system could exist that allows refugees to travel directly to Europe and seek asylum when they arrive. They would collect a visa at an embassy or consulate outside of Europe and simply pay their own flight or ferry. "It would save lives. It would undercut the entire market for smugglers, and it would remove the chaos we see from Europe’s frontline areas like the Greek islands," he says. "It’s politics that prevents us from doing that."
The idea has been applied in recent times and in history. The 1938 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Nansen International Office for Refugees in Geneva for its issuing of about 450,000 visas to stateless people and refugees who needed to flee countries such as Syria, Turkey, and Russia between 1922 and 1942, enabling them to safely travel across Europe. More recently, Brazil has pioneered this approach.
The Refugee Studies Center's Alexander Betts thinks that simple changes—such as giving refugees travel documents and matching their jobs with the needs of host countries—could change how we solve the crisis.