Games with fron­tiers

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY STAVROS LYGEROS

The ar­rival of nearly a thou­sand Tu­nisian im­mi­grants on the Ital­ian is­land of Lampe­dusa has been enough to put the Schen­gen Agree­ment into ques­tion. The dis­pute be­tween Italy and France over the fate of the North African refugees and il­le­gal im­mi­grants even­tu­ally re­sulted in a pro­posal by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to rein­tro­duce stricter con­trols on na­tional borders. The news was a fresh demon­stra­tion of the undy­ing strength of na­tional in­ter­ests and the awk­ward­ness of the Euro­pean Union pro­ject. The Lampe­dusa in­ci­dent may have put Italy in the head­lines, but it was still a one-off in­ci­dent. Nor­mal- ly, eight or nine out of 10 clan­des­tine mi­grants that try to sneak into Europe use Greece as their point of en­try. Their fi­nal des­ti­na­tion is nat­u­rally the more af­flu­ent coun­tries of West­ern Europe, but few of them ac­tu­ally man­age to get that far. The fact is that it’s rel­a­tively easy to get to Greece, but it’s hard to travel out of the coun­try, so the bulk of mi­grants end up stuck here. The bur­geon­ing num­ber of il­le­gal mi­grants, who in­evitably find it hard to find a job (and when they do it is with­out so­cial se­cu­rity or de­cent pay), is ef­fec­tively a hot­bed for law­less­ness and crime; it puts a strain on so­cial in­fra­struc­ture and un­der­mines so­cial peace. West­ern Euro­peans are com­fort­able with the fact that Greece has be­come a bar­rier, a hu­man dump as it were, that pro­tects them against the in­flow of poor for­eign­ers. Their stance is ex­tremely hyp­o­crit­i­cal as they ac­cuse Greece of do­ing a poor job of pro­tect­ing its borders when they know that this is prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble as those borders are too por­ous to lock down – es­pe­cially given that Tur­key is in fact en­cour­ag­ing the flow. It is now clear that the Euro­peans will not set the im­me­di­ate and un­con­di­tional re­turn of peo­ple who use Tur­key to mi­grate into the Schen­gen na­tions as a con­di­tion for the con­tin­u­a­tion of Ankara’s mem­ber­ship ne­go­ti­a­tions. Athens must de­mand a com­mon Euro­pean mi­gra­tion pol­icy, equipped with the nec­es­sary funds and suit­able po­lit­i­cal tools. The prob­lem, af­ter all, is a Euro­pean prob­lem, and the so­lu­tion, once again, can only be a Euro­pean so­lu­tion. But in­stead of tak­ing steps for­ward, Europe is busy dis­man­tling its good old prin­ci­ples. Fron­tex, as we know it, is only a short­term cure. In fact, West­ern gov­ern­ments are try­ing to shut down their borders to the na­tions of the Euro­pean south that are tak­ing most of the pres­sure. Should that hap­pen, it would be fool­ish for Athens to ob­struct the hordes of il­le­gal mi­grants seek­ing des­per­ately to make their way into the West.

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