hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Exodus: Don’t Come but if You Do Stay

Alphen, Netherlands. 12 May.  Walk round Rome on a normal day and the consequences of mass uncontrolled migration is plain for all to see.  Young men seeking to flog chintzy souvenirs hang around every piazza.  The BBC said recently that are some 500,000 migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean, with some 500,000 people believed to be on the move towards Europe.  According to the EU 80% of these people are economic migrants seeking a better life, with only 20% refugees from conflict zones, with 80% of those travelling young men.  Yesterday, the European Commission, on the heels of the British election, moved to impose quotas of migrants on each EU member-state.  And, whilst EU foreign policy supremo Federica Mogherini was in New York trying to get the UN Security Council to allow the forces of EU member-states to interdict traffickers close to the Libyan coast, there is no strategy worthy of the name to deal with this exodus, even under existing international humanitarian law.  Indeed, the EU ‘policy’ can be best summarised as “don’t come, but if you do stay”.  What must be done?

Grasp the scope of the challenge: According to Global Strategic Trends 2014 the world’s population will grow from 7.2bn people today to between 8.4bn and 10.4bn by 2045.  97% of that growth will occur in the developing world with 70% in the world’s nine poorest countries. Driven by demographic pressure, conflicts, globalisation and organised transnational crime the world is witnessing the first wave of strategic mass migration with profound and destabilising structural implications for geopolitics and societies. And, such migration is likely only to increase. Indeed, with states collapsing and in distress across North Africa, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and much of Asia the imperative of people to move will grow rapidly and massively. 

Support front-line states:  87% of all refugees are in the developing world and although massive Europe’s challenge is only part of a global mass movement.  Moreover, whilst there are some 230,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Europe, there are still some 3m still in the region placing a huge strain on already-weakened countries such as Jordan and Lebanon.  There are already 1.1m registered Syrians in Lebanon and some 0.5m unregistered.  Syrians now represent some 30% of the population and many Lebanese fear this massive influx will destabilise an already fragile state.  This week Lebanon will impose visas on Syrians. Supporting front-line states with aid and expertise must be a priority.

Render asylum fit for purpose: Again, 80% of those making the perilous journey are not refugees but people seeking a better life and whilst no-one can blame people for that most basic of human instincts the sheer numbers involved such an exodus must be controlled. Sadly, there is little or no control.  However, if host populations are to accept those with a right to stay they must be confident that those with no right to stay are returned to their country of origin.  This is not the case at present as too often lawyers can use existing legislation to frustrate humane return policy. Those third countries who refuse to take back their nationals and who receive EU/national aid must understand the consequences of a refusal to co-operate. 

Recognise migration as a Europe-wide challenge:  It is utterly unfair to expect hard-pressed countries like Spain, Greece and Italy to cope with such flows on their own.  As regular readers of this blog know I am wary of more Europe, but mass migration is one area which needs a common European position.  Relations between EU member-states are already suffering due to a lack of either policy or effective enforcement.  Italy is no longer finger-printing many new arrivals who simply move untracked to other parts of Europe.  France, which under EU rules should be dealing with the migrants seeking to enter Britain from Calais, is threatening to push UK border controls back to Dover to force the British to deal with the problem.  Britain refuses to deal with many of the so-called ‘pull factors’ which make the UK such an attractive destination. Equitable resettlement across Europe is needed to avoid beggar-thy-neighbour national immigration policies. 

Make agencies work together:  A critical element is the interdiction and prosecution of human trafficking gangs.  Europe’s attempt to deal with the traffickers has thus far been lamentable.  Moreover, often migrants refuse to identify their country of origin. However, language and dialect cannot be hidden.  The EU and its member-states must therefore establish a system for quickly identifying the country of origin to help better distinguish between genuine asylum seekers and economic migrants. Schengen Area external border controls must also be strengthened by in turn strengthening Frontex, which is responsible for assisting EU member-states with an external EU border. At present Frontex has only 300 employees in Warsaw.  Much greater effort must also be made to ensure Europol and Frontex work together effectively together which is not the case today.
Recognise the link between immigration and security policy: The focus of late has rightly been on the need to prevent people drowning.  Indeed, it is a disgrace, worse a preventable tragedy, that so many people are losing their lives crossing the Med. However, given the huge cohort of young men amongst the migrants European governments must also take seriously the threat posed to European societies by such immigration.  In February 12 Christian migrants were cast overboard by Islamists.  With ISIS pressing Europe’s borders it would be absurd and dangerous if Europe’s leaders (again) refused to see the link between immigration policy and security policy. 

European politicians and their electorates are both wrong about the exodus. Politicians are wrong to wish the issue away.  Electorates are wrong to believe there are any quick fixes.  The essential dilemma for Europeans is how to maintain humanitarian principles, and at the same time protect societies from the extremism, social instability, wage suppression and crime which unfortunately such mass migrations also spawn.  If this dilemma is not addressed then the whole idea of free movement within Europe could also fail.  Free movement within Europe was sold to the people on the basis that effective controls would be in place to prevent illegal free movement into Europe.  The current ‘policy’ of ‘don’t come but if you do stay’ not only encourages mass illegal migration, it risks breaking the last vestige of trust on this matter between Europe’s leaders and Europe’s led.

Managing mass migration is a strategic issue and as such must be dealt with strategically and honestly through the proper application of existing law. Mass migration must lead to mass returns.

Julian Lindley-French  

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