More refugees, less solidarity?

According to the latest figures from the UNHCR, the global number of refugees increased by 19 million in 2022 compared to the previous year, 11.6 million of whom were Ukrainians. The EU has just introduced tighter asylum laws, while Europeans are discussing the latest boat tragedy in the Mediterranean, in which hundreds of migrants are reported to have drowned. Commentators question whether the debate about migration is focusing on the right aspects.

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Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

Good immigrants, bad immigrants

In the Polish election campaign, familiar roles are becoming confused in the row over migration, observes Krytyka Polityczna:

“The roles in this 'debate' are so twisted that it is difficult to understand who stands where. The government is recruiting thousands of workers from all over the world while at the same time scaring the public with its talk about immigrants being 'foisted' on us by Brussels. Apparently it is counting on its most ardent supporters being able to recognise at a glance the Indian in the Uber as a 'good Kaczyński immigrant' and be polite to him, as opposed to the bad immigrant sent by Ursula von der Leyen.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Discourage migrants from starting a hopeless journey

Curbing migration must focus on tackling the causes before taking on the traffickers, notes Der Standard:

“The deportation rhetoric of conservative and far-right politicians is genuine 'deception of the people'. The states of origin simply don't take these people back. The fight against traffickers and the curbing of migration must begin at a much earlier stage. It takes intellectual honesty, also as a humanitarian critic of the current migration policy, to say that a large number of those who come across the Mediterranean or the supposedly closed Balkan route have little or no chance of work, integration or advancement in Europe. Ways must be found to prevent them from embarking on a hopeless journey (often to their death).”

El País (ES) /

End the policy of deterrence

Juan Matías Gil, head of operations at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the central Mediterranean, accuses Europe of hypocrisy in El País:

“MSF calls on the member states to set up a European search and rescue mechanism explicitly aimed at saving lives. ... The EU must end the policy of deterrence and immediately cease all support for the Libyan coast guard or other actors that leads to violations of human rights and international law. ... Unless there is a radical change of focus, we will continue to lament preventable deaths and be outraged by the EU's political hypocrisy, which contradicts its fundamental values.”

Népszava (HU) /

No improvements in sight

Historian Iván T. Berend paints a bleak picture in Népszava:

“The world is in a frightening state of flux. Refugees are arriving en masse in Europe and America from Asia and Africa. It has clearly become impossible to take them all in. ... For the time being, solving the causes of the migration flows seems hopeless. There is no or only slow progress in improving the situation in the countries from which tens of millions of migrants set out. Rich countries are reaching the limits of their absorption capacity. The world is witnessing numerous human tragedies.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Half-open borders make no sense

Phileleftheros describes the mood towards immigrants as follows:

“Societies have become much more closed and distrustful of foreigners. There is a big debate here as well. Are the migrants themselves to blame for not integrating and often turning against the countries that have taken them in? It is no coincidence that the perpetrators in many deadly terrorist attacks have been second-generation immigrants. Or is it because the far right has exploited and amplified these fears, leading to xenophobia and racism? Be that as it may, these are two diametrically opposed attitudes that do not really go together. Open borders here, closed borders there. Half-open borders make no sense.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Political courage is possible and necessary

The EU's refugee policy should be guided by its treatment of refugees from Ukraine, Joke Dillen of Caritas International urges in La Libre Belgique:

“The new deal cements procedures whose consequences we know are dramatic in humanitarian terms. ... European governments must face up to their responsibilities when it comes to international law for refugees. ... This will requre both time and political courage. Precisely the political courage that made the temporary protection offered to the Ukrainians possible. Let us build on this solidarity the foundations of a European reception model that guarantees the fundamental rights and protection of all persons, regardless of their country of origin.”

Times of Malta (MT) /

Everyone needs a safe haven

The Times of Malta also calls for more empathy on the occasion of World Refugee Day:

“All of us, in some way or another, to varying extents, understand loss. All of us, in some way or another, to varying extents, have had our foundations shaken from beneath us. We might be lucky enough not to understand what it means to flee our country. ... We might be lucky enough not to understand what it means to walk around in a new, foreign country with the label of 'refugee' hanging like a rain cloud above our heads. ... We would all want a safe haven - that is, international protection - for us, for our children, should we or they ever need it.”

Le Point (FR) /

Moscow fuelling refugee crisis in Europe

Le Point explains why so many migrants are once again making the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe:

“Refugees have become a geopolitical weapon, not only for Turkey. The Adriana, which sailed from Egypt [and sunk off the Greek coast], loaded its passengers in Tobruk, which is in the eastern part of Libya controlled by the Russian Wagner militia. Many migrants arrive in Tobruk by plane from Syria, which is also largely under Russian control. The number of boats illegally leaving there for Italy has increased significantly in recent months. Everything is happening as if the Kremlin had seen fit to reignite the refugee crisis to play into the hands of the extremists and increase tensions in Europe against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.”

Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Separate immigration from asylum

Europe must close its borders completely, the Kleine Zeitung demands:

“Europe bears responsibility, there can be no question of that. Wherever possible, we must create and pay for humane conditions in reception centres. But in order to avoid deaths, there is no alternative to the strict separation of immigration and asylum. And to make this separation work, we must not open our borders but rigorously seal them off. ... Those who want to come to the EU for economic reasons must not simply come, but go through a legal, formal, secure process within the framework of manageable quotas. Otherwise: no chance. Those, on the other hand, who are actually seeking asylum should find protection as close as possible to their country of origin.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Only outsourcing the problem

Deutschlandfunk criticises the new asylum compromise together with the planned migration agreements with third countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Rwanda:

“The plan permanently calls into question the moral values that Europe, and Germany in particular, are so keen to promote. The dirty work of keeping people in need out of Europe is being outsourced for large sums of money to regimes that treat their own citizens harshly, never mind people who are fleeing other countries. You can do it that way, but then you should also be clear about what you're doing. ... The strategy of isolation at all costs shifts the problem elsewhere at best, but it solves nothing. That, too, is a fact.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Offer a chance of happiness closer to home

The migrant boat disaster off the Greek coast proves that a policy of deterrence is not the answer, De Morgen writes:

“Border control is only half of the policy. The other half is cooperation and trade with countries and regions from which migrants flee in search of a better life. We should not deter these 'happiness seekers' or condemn them to a death at sea; we should offer them a chance to find happiness closer to home. ... Cooperation on development could be a cornerstone of geopolitics and trade policy. But who dares tell that to their voters nowadays?”

The Observer (GB) /

Address the causes of irregular migration

Europe bears responsibility for the situation in the refugees' and migrants' countries of origin, The Observer admonishes:

“European countries, including Britain, have persistently failed to develop a humane, coherent and effective approach to the challenges posed by irregular migration. ... The need to recognise fundamental causes and tackle migration challenges at source is urgent. That must mean expanded, systemic cooperation wherever politically possible with countries of origin and transit. It means offering more (not less) development aid and assistance. It means acknowledging food insecurity, inequality, conflict and climate crisis - key drivers of irregular migration - are problems the west helped create.”