Alphen, Netherlands, 31 August. The website of the EU External Action Service states that the “mission core mandate” of the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia “…is to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers, in order to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean and prevent further loss of life at sea”. In the past twenty-four hours European naval forces, together with up to forty other agencies, have rescued close to 10,000 migrants, many from sub-Saharan Africa. Most have been picked up only 12 miles/20 kilometres off the Libyan coast as the traffickers are now putting just enough fuel in their horribly overloaded boats to get them outside Libyan territorial waters.
It is of course vital all such souls are rescued. No-one should have to endure a slow, lonely, drowning death in the middle of an alien sea and some 3000 people have already died in the attempt. Nor should Europe try to erect a Trump-like and frankly unworkable wall to keep migrants out. Equally, the strategic implications for European society of this seemingly endless flow of human misery must be gripped, reduced and its effects understood and mitigated.
Let me deal with the strategic implications for European society first because that is what this blog does, however uncomfortable. Those picked up off Libya are but the latest of 110,500 migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean Sea between Libya and Italy this year. Most of them are decent people who arrive in hope. When they arrive in Italy will be given a medical check-up, registered, and then sent to a migration centre where the process of seeking asylum begin. However, most migrants do not want to stay in Italy, and in any case the process is so lengthy many lose patience. They then drift northwards or sink into enforced Mafia-manipulated petty criminality on the streets of Rome and other Italian cities. Others get trapped on the Italian border with Austria, France and Switzerland, whilst many eventually make it through with the help of local traffickers. They then head further northwards towards Germany, the Netherlands and other Western European countries, whilst others end up in ‘The Jungle’ trying to reach Britain.
The essential problems are of scale and pace. Take those 110,500 who have made it to Europe this year. By year’s end that means at least 150,000 migrants will have reached Europe. Add this to the 1.1 million who went to Germany last year, together with those entering Europe via other routes, some 2 million people will have entered the EU illegally in the past two years. At least 80% will remain in Europe either legally or illegally, which means some 1.8 million people.
Experience suggests that over time there will be political amnesties and almost all will be granted the right to remain as European politicians buckle under the weight of human rights legislation and ‘community’ appointed human rights lawyers. The migrants will then be allowed to bring their families over, which means the European population will grow by at least 8 million over the coming years simply as a result of two years ‘business’ by traffickers. Given Turkey could well break the deal agreed last March with the EU that figure could climb rapidly.
Now, look forward twenty years. Experience of mass imposed immigration does not suggest the creation of harmonious multicultural societies. Trevor Phillips, former head of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission, even went as far this year to suggest that ‘multiculturalism’ has failed. Rather, recipient societies become progressively destabilised as migrant ghettoes form often with people who hold very different values to liberal Europeans. This destabilisation is made worse by the fact that the migration is so concentrated with most migrants wanting only to go to some six Western European countries. These are societies already grappling with the threat posed by ISIS as Chancellor Merkel admitted last month when she said that ISIS fighters had entered Europe in the migration flow.
So, can the humanity and security square be circled? Most reasonable Europeans understand that migration cannot be completely stopped and that what Europe is witnessing is an historic, structural shift in migration. However, Europeans do expect their leaders to better manage the crisis, which they are not. Better ‘management’ would need leaders to recognise first and foremost that the threat to European society from such uncontrolled immigration is as great as that posed by ISIS, not least because it is part and parcel of the same threat. Unfortunately, not only is there a complete absence of any attempt to ‘manage’ the crisis, Europe’s leaders would prefer Europeans pretend it was not happening, even if the implications for Europe’s future are grave. It is in the political vacuum in between which Trump-like populists exploit.
Europe’s leaders must thus come together and craft the following agenda for systematic action: establish a Europe-wide refugee policy (not a ‘common’ policy) that sees genuine asylum seekers assessed quickly and distributed across the entire EU; open new routes for legal, managed migration to Europe; deport humanely those that do not qualify to remain, the message of returnees will act as a powerful deterrent to those thinking of making a perilous journey; used language and dialect experts to identify the home country of those who have deliberately ‘lost’ identity papers; massively increase aid and development to those countries which are the main source of economic migrants, and include education programmes and media campaigns about the perils of making such a journey; do far more to integrate those migrants that remain into European society so they begin to feel part of it; face down the racists and their nostalgia-fuelled appeals to an ideal Europe that never existed; and, above all, go after the traffickers wherever they are with whatever it takes. These criminals are a clear and present danger to Europe’s security.
The other day, in yet another example of crass political naiveté, Chancellor Merkel pleaded with Turks not to import their current rivalries into Germany. Sorry, but that is precisely what happens when huge numbers of immigrants enter a liberal society. There is every reason to believe that ten years hence if the current migration flows continue at the current pace and scale Europe will look ever more like the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa complete with all the same tensions and hatreds. Plus, of course, the anger that will be felt by many Europeans as they wonder how on earth their leaders allowed things to get so bad.
Operation Sophia is yet another example of all that is wrong with Europe’s pitiful attempts to deal with big, dangerous, strategic change. Whether it be the ongoing Euro crisis, the threats posed by Russia and ISIS, or society-bending hyper-migration they all require grand strategy – the organisation of massive means in pursuit of grand strategic ends over time and distance. The failure to generate such strategy has already led the British to quit the EU (immigration was the main driver), the effective failure of the border-free Schengen Zone, and a profound loss of faith in Europe’s by and large incompetent and spineless leaders.
Sadly, far from disrupting the ‘business model’ of traffickers or protecting the external borders of the EU, EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia aids and abets criminals, and as such is little more than a migrant ferry service between Libya and Italy.