Press release – 27 June 2018
At a time when fewer and fewer migrants manage to cross the EU’s borders – over the first six months of the year, the number of arrivals by sea in Italy decreased by over 70% compared with 2017  – a few hundred migrants rescued at sea have been portrayed as the root cause of the biggest “crisis” ever faced by the EU. The European Council which is meeting on 28-9 June is once again placing the response to “migratory pressures” at the top of its agenda. However, the “solutions” that will be put forward are likely to plunge the EU into a quagmire and inhumanity. The members of V4 and the governments that are seen as being the most populist have found it easy to declare themselves as the guardians of the sole plan implemented by the EU to address the challenge of population movements and the arrival of people seeking international protection: considering respect for fundamental rights as a privilege granted to a minority of survivors, strengthening the EU’s external borders by “leaving people to die” as a result of the European measures implemented in the name of making the necessary distinction between “migrants » and “refugees”. Giving more resources, including military resources, to border guards (in conjunction with Frontex in particular), increasing the number of cooperation and readmission agreements with the most disreputable regimes, setting up camps (see the “hotspot approach” presented as the solution to the “migration crisis” in 2015 ), the only place where migrants can be confined and processed…this has been the path taken by numerous summits, legal texts, recommendations and agreements that have monopolized the European legislative and political machine since the early 2000s.
This next council meeting could however mark a further stage in the downward spiral of fundamental rights and lead to a new moral low: under the guise of working to achieve European unity, Europe’s leaders are bolstering the extreme right and for a long time have been taking on board its strategy based on fuelling tension around migration. In 2016, they forged an “arrangement” with Turkey to get out of the « 2015 crisis”. This arrangement contravenes the principle of non-refoulement of people claiming asylum and is causing a stream of deportations to Syria . The “hotspots” have transformed Greece into an archipelago of camps. Italy, meanwhile, is refusing to assume this role, and in response to the re-establishment of checks on internal borders (notably at crossings into France and Austria), seems ready to deny search and rescue vessels permission to dock in its ports in the long term. Following the (predictable) failure of “relocations”, the Italian Minister for Internal Affairs can only observe that the so-called “solidarity” mechanisms are just empty words. The EU’s rationale – notably via the Dublin regulations – has always involved “frontline” states bearing the brunt of the dogma of closing external borders.
The European states are therefore reduced to seeking a vile consensus on how and where to send back those who arrive by sea, on what sort of camp to imprison them in, and how to speed up deportations without procedural guarantees. The main decision-makers dream that an apparently stabilised Libya could play the role of buffer state with greater discretion than that currently displayed by its militia and border guards, who are most definitely supported by the EU, but whose abusive behaviour is too disorderly to be vaunted as “model” cooperation .
Europe needs to change course. Unless the EU breaks with its ethos of outsourcing asylum and border control, it will plunge deeper still into a moral and political crisis whose first victims are the thousands who are perishing on its borders. The EU must acknowledge that the right to emigrate cannot be split into two in order to re-establish its original plan for internal freedom of movement, which is currently endangered by its own policy. The right to emigrate must be put at the heart of both the external and internal facets of its migration policy.
2 Migreurop Brief « Hotspots at the heart of the archipelago of camps », 2016
3 Migreurop Brief « Externalisation across the board: from the EU – Turkey arrangement to Migration Compacts in Africa », 2017
4 Migreurop Brief « Libya : where thugs are funded by Europe to mistreat migrants », 2018