Blind spots in Europe's migration debate

Europe's politicians and civil society are caught up in a row over how to deal with refugees. Commentators sketch out the changes needed for the EU to overcome the crisis sparked by migration.

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Le Point (FR) /

Enough of the muddling-through approach!

The EU must show more resolve on the issue of migration instead of just muddling through, Le Point urges:

“Perhaps the topic of immigration is also a unique opportunity for the Union to show that it exists, or even that it is indispensable. What about if we increased the visibility of Frontex, for example? If we hoisted the EU's colours on the Mediterranean ships? Both those in favour of barbed wire and those who wag their moralising finger could continue to voice their criticism. But at least we would be discussing concrete measures and issues. The horse-trading we saw last week at the EU summit wouldn't stop, but the Union would make a quantum leap: I stand by my decisions, therefore I am.”

De Morgen (BE) /

We need porous borders

Europe needs a more active migration policy, urges Leo Lucassen, professor of migration history at Leiden University, in De Morgen:

“Instead of building higher and higher walls with perverse consequences (such as human trafficking), we need 'porous borders'. That would allow us to create jobs for non-EU citizens in sectors with acute labour shortages. In other words: we could introduce a form of circular migration in which the return to the country of origin would not be seen as a punishment, as is the case today with illegal immigrants. It doesn't even occur to today's immigrants to return to their home country because they've risked their lives and paid handsomely for the trip.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Only young men benefit from open borders

As long as asylum applications can be filed within Europe those who are the strongest physically will continue to try their luck as migrants, The Daily Telegraph points out:

“And why should we continue an asylum model that favours the strong over the weak, the young over the old, and men over women? Three quarters of asylum seekers in Britain are men and the majority are in their early twenties. Too often, with today's system, the vulnerable get left behind. The immigration debate is changing. In Europe, mainstream politicians are advocating 'regional disembarkation platforms', where asylum claims are processed outside the EU. This is a model that has worked in Australia, but it will only succeed if migrants are barred from claiming asylum in Europe itself.”

The Shift News (MT) /

Rescuers have more to fear than the smugglers

Malta's authorities are taking a far tougher line against refugee helpers like the captain of the rescue ship Lifeline than against the smugglers, The Shift News complains:

“Reisch was accused [in court on Monday] of having steered the ship within Maltese territorial waters without the necessary registration and licence. Compare this with the lack of willingness shown by the Maltese authorities to bring charges against those using vessels to smuggle Libyan fuel to Europe. ...If the government were truly committed to the rule of law and wanted to play its part in addressing migration, then the focus should be on the Libyan militias - who control the people smuggling business - and their associates, including the Maltese reaping profits from illegal trade.”

Público (PT) /

The key topics are being left out

Público laments the lack of a discussion about European values in the migration debate:

“The debate about the refugee and migration crisis does not revolve around migrants or refugees. Instead it is about the EU and its Charter of Human Rights. The vision of a Europe and a world that applies the Union's basic values bounces off politicians who campaign for an illiberal democracy, like Viktor Orbán or Donald Trump. ... The far right (and its xenophobia) can be beaten. But for that the political leaders who defend the rule of law must also be coherent in the defence of their values. Macron and Merkel, who are trying to organise an anti-populist front in the EU, lack a coherent stance on the subject of migration.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Europe's left has abandoned the field to the right

Unlike Europe's right, the left-wing parties have shied away from defining an immigration policy worthy of the name, journalist Anne Brunswic complains in Mediapart:

“The right has a programme that it actively implements: using every means at its disposal - legal or illegal - to prevent those it considers undesirable from setting foot in Europe. And how does the left respond? ... You can scrutinise their programmes all you like but you won't find a trace of a policy. Why so much restraint - or laziness? For the past 40 years there has only been a single answer: 'Because it could play into the hands of the far right'. Forty years of unkept promises and increasingly right-wing policies have helped the far right - which was no more than several hundred strong at the start - to a position of dominance.”

Marianne (FR) /

A historic failure

The refugee crisis is the result of numerous mistakes of the past, author and journalist Guy Konopnicki explains in Marianne:

“Europe has proven powerless in face of the biggest humanitarian crisis in recent history. All the failures of the last half century have resulted in the flood of people trying to reach Europe's shores: in the south, the failures of the postcolonial governments, nationalist revolutions, new struggles for independence, nationalist or religious dictatorships and various versions of socialism; in the north, the crisis of a Europe that believed in 1989 that the era of borders was over, that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain opened a fantastic space of prosperity and democracy. ... This Europe felt it was protected from the winds of history.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

EU too big for reasonable solutions

The constant enlargement of the European Community - and later the Union - over the past decades has drastically hampered the decision-making process, author Tibor Fischer complains in The Daily Telegraph:

“A basic problem is the membership: whether it's 28, 25 or 30, it's probably impossible for that many states to agree on anything but the most anodyne, vague measures. Anyone who's tried to organise a family holiday will know that satisfying just four or five parties is exhausting. Perhaps it's hindsight but I don't recall bitter disputes with the original European Economic Community.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Destroy the smuggler networks

El Mundo tells of hundreds of websites on which the people smugglers offer their illegal services. It is the EU's duty to stop this trade, the paper admonishes:

“The 28 member states only just about managed to agree on a few provisional measures such as closed centres in countries willing to host them. These measures will at best merely buy some time in terms of public opinion, but they won't resolve this highly complex problem which includes, among other huge challenges, that of tackling the smuggler mafias. ... It's an illusion to believe that migration flows can be stopped in this increasingly globalised world. But it is vital for the EU to combat the mafias that are taking advantage of tragic circumstances to trade in human lives and hinder the orderly management of these flows.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

We can't save Africa

As part of the strategy aimed at resolving the migration crisis the EU leaders want to combat the causes and help Africa economically. This won't work, Paul Scheffer, professor of European studies, writes in his column in NRC Handelsblad:

“We can't save Africa. Everything depends on these countries taking responsibility for their own fate. Population growth is facing societies with big questions to which they themselves must find answers. ... No matter how much we invest in a major plan, all change begins with the elites and the citizens of each country. A contribution to Africa's development must be part of any migration policy. But we must realise that the initial phase of economic growth in particular often leads to more migration. ... Combatting the causes of migration relieves us of the responsibility to limit migration.”