There are al­ter­na­tives to build­ing phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers


BOUT 1.5 mil­lion mi­grants reached the EU via the Mediter­ranean Sea be­tween Jan­uary and Novem­ber last year. This high level of mi­gra­tion con­tin­ued this year.

Sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries that pre­vi­ously had open-door poli­cies, have shifted their po­si­tion on refugees and mi­grants who at­tempt to reach their shores from Africa.

The pol­icy re­sponse by Euro­pean coun­tries can be di­vided into two cat­e­gories. The first seeks to ad­dress the root causes as to why refugees or mi­grants flee their coun­tries of ori­gin. The sec­ond in­volves erect­ing a “fortress” around Europe in the form of strong, an­timi­gra­tion poli­cies.

We ar­gue that fortress Europe is not a sus­tain­able way of deal­ing with this mi­gra­tion “prob­lem”. Europe’s at­tempt to keep mi­grants out will con­tinue to fail as long as no em­pha­sis is placed on in­vest­ing in de­vel­op­ment in the coun­tries from which refugees are flee­ing.

The other ma­jor change needed is Europe must stop mak­ing pol­icy de­ci­sions that un­der­mine Africa’s de­vel­op­ment poli­cies.

One ex­am­ple is the EU’s Fish­eries Ac­cess Agree­ments with West African coun­tries. This gave lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion to the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the African coun­tries con­cerned.

The pol­icy pro­vided Euro­pean fish­ing ves­sels with ac­cess to West Africa’s fish re­sources but re­sulted in ir­re­spon­si­ble fish­ing and a de­pleted re­source base. Ul­ti­mately, it hand­i­capped the de­vel­op­ment of the West African fish­ing in­dus­try.

Refugees and mi­grants who come into Europe orig­i­nate from Africa and the Mid­dle East. They make the per­ilous jour­ney spurred by so­cio­cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal in­jus­tices, ad­verse eco­nomic con­di­tions, con­flict and war.

The EU sought to ad­dress these root causes at its EU-Africa Val­letta sum­mit on mi­gra­tion last year. But

Asuch at­tempts re­main just po­lit­i­cal af­fir­ma­tions.

The Po­lit­i­cal Dec­la­ra­tion and Ac­tion Plan drawn up at the sum­mit were vague and con­sti­tuted largely of re­peated com­mit­ments made at pre­vi­ous fo­rums. These in­cluded the 2014 Dec­la­ra­tion on Mi­gra­tion and Mo­bil­ity and the 2015 Addis Ababa Ac­tion Agenda.

These plans have not been sig­nif­i­cantly im­ple­mented – and some might ar­gue that they’ve failed al­to­gether.

The root cause of refugees and mi­grants flee­ing re­mains un­ad­dressed and mi­gra­tion to Europe con­tin­ues. Euro­pean coun­tries there­fore re­sorted to more ex­treme mea­sures that cre­ate phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers. One ex­am­ple is Hun­gary’s ra­zor-wire fence erected to keep mi­grants out. It seeks to have this fence mon­i­tored by 3 000 “bor­der-hunters” who will re­in­force about 10 000 po­lice and sol­diers al­ready on pa­trol.

EU coun­tries have also es­tab­lished a Euro­pean Bor­der and Coast Guard Agency to se­cure and pro­tect them against floods of refugees and mi­grants.

None of this has stopped mi­grants at­tempt­ing to cross into Europe. The UN refugee agency says this year is poised to be the dead­li­est for refugees and mi­grants. As of Oc­to­ber, about 3 700 had died try­ing to cross the Mediter­ranean.

Clearly, a “fortress” around Europe is not work­ing. The re­stric­tive regime only makes mi­grants and refugees re­sort to des­per­ate and il­le­gal means to en­ter Europe. They of­ten make use of hu­man smug­glers. Some of them make it, only to be ar­rested and de­ported. The dan­ger­ous cy­cle of try­ing to reach Europe starts all over again.

Putting up bar­ri­ers against mi­grants con­tra­dicts the leg­is­la­tion and poli­cies the EU has en­acted over the years to wel­come and ac­com­mo­date mi­grants. There are some al­ter­na­tives. First, the EU could re­visit its strin­gent poli­cies and ac­com­mo­date the mi­grants. These in­di­vid­u­als could con­trib­ute to EU economies. They could also con­trib­ute to their home coun­try’s econ­omy through re­mit­tances. This could re­duce mi­grant out­flows.

Sec­ond, num­bers could be re­duced if the fo­cus was shifted from keep­ing mi­grants out to sup­port­ing projects that would keep them at home. The funds pledged at the Val­letta Sum­mit should be di­rected to­wards such ini­tia­tives. The is­sue is that by June, the EU and mem­ber states had only ful­filled 4.5 per­cent of the trust fund’s bud­get of $1.93 bil­lion.

Third, the EU must en­sure that its non-de­vel­op­ment poli­cies do not un­der­mine de­vel­op­ment poli­cies in Africa. One ex­am­ple is the EU’s com­mon agri­cul­tural pol­icy.

This cre­ates dis­tor­tions in global mar­kets be­cause of the pro­duc­tion and ex­port sub­si­dies given to Euro­pean farm­ers. African farm­ers can’t com­pete with their Euro­pean coun­ter­parts.

The threat to peo­ple’s liveli­hoods gen­er­ated by such pol­icy in­co­her­ence leaves them with few other choices than to mi­grate to seem­ingly “greener pas­tures”.

Erect­ing a “fortress” not only ne­glects the root causes of mi­gra­tion; it is also a vi­o­la­tion of fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples re­lat­ing to the right of move­ment. Ar­ti­cle 13 of the 1948 Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights states that every­one has the right to free­dom of move­ment and res­i­dence within the bor­ders of each state and the free­dom to leave any coun­try.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of de­ci­sions made at EU-Africa mi­gra­tion sum­mits should start by prag­mat­i­cally match­ing ac­tions with avail­able fund­ing. It shouldn’t be based on pledges. Also, the ap­par­ent re­cy­cling of ac­tion plans and dec­la­ra­tions sug­gests a lack of con­sen­sus be­tween the par­ties, es­pe­cially African states.

Only through a well-formed con­sen­sus on how best to tackle the mi­gra­tion prob­lem will both con­ti­nents be­gin to mean­ing­fully deal with it. – The Con­ver­sa­tion

HUNG OUT TO DRY: Mi­grants dry clothes on the barbed wire fence at the GreekMace­do­nian bor­der near Idomeni, north­ern Greece.

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