Home News EU policy forces migrants to cross more dangerously than ever.

EU policy forces migrants to cross more dangerously than ever.

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This is the worst migrant shipwreck off Greece since 2016. On the night of Tuesday 13 to Wednesday 14 June, a ship leaving Libya sank at sea, off the coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, while on its way to Italy. At least 79 people lost their lives. If a hundred passengers have been rescued so far, the death toll is likely to rise exponentially. According to the testimonies of the survivors, there were 750 of them, without life jackets, on the fishing trawler.

The drama, which takes place just a few days after the 27 Agreement on Asylum and Migration Agreement, has sparked criticism of EU policy. What is its share of the responsibility in the proliferation of these wrecks, when nearly 27,000 people have died or disappeared trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014 according to IOM data? For Yves Pascuao, a researcher specializing in migration politics, the European doctrine, by limiting itself to increased border controls, exposes migrants to greater risks in transit. Only a path out of denial and a continent-wide political vision will make it possible to prevent these tragedies, warns the researcher.

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The new shipwreck reminds us of the unseen deaths in the Mediterranean: according to the International Organization for Migration, it was the deadliest first quarter since 2017 (441 deaths were recorded on April 12). What are the reasons for this increase?

Eve Pasquaw Three reasons can explain this. First, the number of departures has increased, mainly from Libya and Syria. But this does not explain everything. The range of measures implemented by states is making rescue operations at sea and the work of associations more difficult.

The Italian case is typical of such anti-bailout policies: the country opens ports to allow NGO boats to dock, but these are too far from the bailout areas. Port administrative authorities tend to keep ships docked for a long time, to carry out deliberately dense administrative checks. Thus many rescue boats are kept in administrative areas and cannot carry out their mission.

In Italy, Georgia Meloni’s immigration policy was put to the test

Finally, as documented by the “New York Times”And Some border guards have resorted to illegal pushbacks at the borders of “front line” countries, in Greece in particular, rejecting migrants in the hands of Turkish or Libyan authorities. To avoid these abusive checks, these people in distress, who would often prefer to risk their lives at sea rather than remain in their country of origin or on the Libyan and Turkish coasts, are taking more dangerous routes. Hence the proliferation of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean.

sequel after announcement

Shipwreck survivors receive care in the port of Kalamata, Greece, June 15, 2023. (ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP)

What is the European doctrine regarding immigration policies? What is her share of the responsibility in these lost human lives?

While on other issues (Brexit from the European Union, Covid, and the war in Ukraine) European countries managed to overcome crises, the issue of migration led to the division of the Union since 2015 and the influx of Syrian refugees. Within countries, the far right presents this topic as a general problem, poisoning the debate and precluding any reflection on a common immigration policy.

Whether they fall into far-right populist governments (Italy, Hungary, Poland) or have to contend with a powerful far-right, European countries ultimately agree on only two common denominators for managing migrants: the militarization of external borders and the facilitation of removal from Europe’s declaration of illegal immigrants. Thus, European policy boils down to strengthening control at external borders – for example, by creating more than 10,000 border guards within the Frontex agency – and returning migrants who have been denied asylum more quickly.

Immigration, the Poisoned Debate: ‘No one wants to be rational in the face of the risk of being considered too lukewarm’

Simply put, the European Union has changed from a protective space to one cut off from the rest of the world. Its immigration policy based on embargo logic puts migrants at great risk, as it often sends them back to “Libyan hell” or forces them to attempt an ever more dangerous crossing. It should also be emphasized that it facilitates the work of smugglers: the more difficult it is to reach European lands, the more smugglers regard them as a way to reach them. Migrants will want to cross the Mediterranean anyway, because their lives depend on it. To prevent them by all means is to send them back to more dangers.

sequel after announcement

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On June 8, EU interior ministers reached an agreement on the Asylum and Migration Convention, which is supposed to define a European vision on this subject. Is this progress? Is this agreement part of a long-term perspective?

This agreement, which must be discussed in the European Parliament, does not outline any vision, but accumulates measures in line with immigration policy since 2015. Its general logic is to further tighten access conditions.

It creates a dynamically engineered solidarity with Greece and Italy, with each European country being able to choose whether or not to accept migrant resettlement (30,000 per year) in exchange for a sum of money. It also aims to process asylum claims at external borders, leaving migrants in detention camps (“hot spots”). Therefore, we cannot talk about a “political vision” for migration at the European level. The EU continues to operate without a systematic read-first of migration.

“Part of immigration is bringing extreme chaos to the world.”

To have a “vision” must start with recognizing that migrations have always been there and always will be. Migrants flee either poverty (economic migration), war or tyranny (refugees), or climatic disasters. This latter type of migration is likely to increase in the coming years. At the same time, European countries face demographic imbalances to which immigration can be a response.

These data should encourage us to consider migration, no longer under the prism of a ‘problem to prevent’ but of a legal one. Instead of focusing on controlling borders and people, the EU should provide a coordinated response to this phenomenon, by asking what kind of immigration it needs and thus immigration that can become legal.

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