Where is Europe's migration policy headed?

From the controversial British Rwanda deal and pushbacks caught on camera to the major new EU deal reached just before Christmas - alongside frequent reports of people drowning in the Mediterranean - migration and migration policy once again made headlines and fuelled debate across Europe in 2023. Commentators take stock.

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Tageblatt (LU) /

Sealing itself off

For Tageblatt, 2023 was a sad chapter in terms of migration policy:

“It's true that areform of the European asylum system was urgently needed and long overdue. After all, disagreements threatened to split the European Union. However, what the negotiators from the European Parliament, the EU member states and the European Commission agreed on shortly before Christmas is a major infringement on asylum law and a serious blow to the protection of refugees. In Europe, the signs are pointing towards a sealing-off process. ... For those seeking refuge, the dangers on their perilous journeys across the sea or on land will increase. Instead of targeting the causes of migration, it is the refugees who are being targeted.”

El País (ES) /

Not much opposition to xenophobia

El País also sees predominantly, but not only, negative developments:

“The new truth is that human mobility is a threat that justifies everything. ... 2023 will go down in history as the moment when institutions stopped extinguishing the flames [of xenophobia] and started adapting to them. In Europe, North America, Africa and Latin America, we have witnessed a domino effect with consequences that will be hard to reverse. ... Yet in 2023, the popular initiative for the legalisation of undocumented migrants was also submitted to the Spanish parliament. ... We don't know whether the parliamentary groups will have the courage to rescue more than 400,000 women, children and men from being second-class citizens. This initiative is another reason to remember the year.”

The Times (GB) /

Find the courage to make tough decisions

Migration could also be the dominant issue in 2024, says The Times:

“Legal and illegal migration is concentrating political minds because numbers are surging. ... Elections across Europe next year look as if they will lead to an influx of anti-immigrant parties. And the Conservatives in Britain are hoping, by stressing the issue, to claw back some of Labour's huge opinion poll lead. There is common ground between Mr Sunak and Ms Meloni on the merits of outsourcing migrants to countries deemed friendly and open to generous cash contributions. ... The issue must be addressed. If mainstream parties fastidiously avoid tough decisions on migration, the beneficiaries will be parties of the ultra-nationalist right.”