We present the reaction of the EU and eight member states to the refugee crisis 2015/16 as a case of ‘defensive integration’. In the absence of a joint EU solution, the member states were left to their own devices and took a series of national measures that varied from one country to the other, depending on their policy heritage, and the combination of problem pressure and political pressure which they were facing. As a result, debordering responses prevailed at first. Only in a second stage a set of national and EU measures aiming at internal and external re-bordering were introduced. At this stage, destination states proved to be the most important drivers of a joint solution, with Germany taking the lead. The overall outcome is an example of ‘defensive integration’, aiming squarely at joint solutions to stop the refugee flow outside the EU but not to manage it inside the EU.