Refugees and migrants struggle to jump off an overcrowded dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing in rough seas from the Turkish coast, October 2015.
Dimitris Michalakis / Reuters

After the United Kingdom’s stunning decision to exit the EU last week, the bloc has entered a period of soul-searching. As European leaders confront the aftermath of the historic Brexit vote, they will be exploring ways to reform and reinvent their beleaguered union to make it more appealing to Europeans. One of the central issues they should put back on the table for a rethink is the EU’s response to the refugee crisis, which has continued to unfold in the Mediterranean even as the Brexit debacle has transfixed Europe. 

When the EU and Turkey reached a refugee deal in March, we argued in Foreign Affairs that the agreement was “utterly unworkable for logistical, legal, and political reasons” and predicted that it would unravel, forcing European leaders back to the drawing board. Since then, as the flow of refugees from Turkey into Greece has plummeted, EU leaders have repeatedly declared the deal a success. In fact, they are looking to replicate the EU-Turkey deal across parts of Africa and the Middle East, according to an EU migration policy proposal announced in early June.

Although the EU’s deal with Turkey has reduced the flow of refugees into Greece, its

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