The modern refugee concept emerged in the twentieth century, after two world wars and the creation of new states triggered mass displacements. European states and intergovernmental organizations began institutionalizing the right to asylum and refugee protection. As Europe became the theater of displaced people, it also became a laboratory for innovations. In addition, it became the centre of international law, particularly the Geneva Convention, which sets standards for protection for refugees and migrants.
The European Union is now trying new methods to protect their borders and prevent asylum seekers from entering the continent illegally. For instance, the EU has started enforcing visa requirements for asylum seekers. This will force those from former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Sri Lanka to apply for a visa before they can cross the border. This method may seem to be a good way to manage the influx of refugees, but it cannot work in every case.
In recent years, Europe has experienced a massive influx of asylum claims, and governments needed to do something about it. In the interest of public opinion, governments have implemented laws and procedures that will curb the flow of refugees to Europe. But they cannot ignore the fact that the policies often favor the lowest common denominator.
Asylum trends have been shifting across Europe, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, but many observers worry that the basic concept of asylum is in danger of being undermined. Historically, countries have welcomed refugees to avoid persecution. This was necessary after World War II, when many countries were damaged and needed manpower for reconstruction. During the Cold War, many European states also had ideological reasons for welcoming refugees.