Immigration, a consensual issue in the French presidential campaign?

Since the end of the 1970s, when labour migration was halted, immigration has been the hot potato of French politics. Ever since its electoral breakthrough in 1982, the Front National has capitalized on the anxieties of the French society towards globalization, the economic and financial crisis as well as the disappointment with the current European project, seen by many as a big liberal market where social safety nets are being dismantled. The French political elite as a whole has been complicit of Front National’s strategy. Identity, citizenship, French suburbs and laïcité are seen by right-wing politicians as republican symbols under threat by immigrants, and this view is increasingly shared by left-wing politicians like ex-Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Immigration is therefore mostly considered as a security issue by French politicians. In the current campaign, the right-wing is copying Marine Le Pen’s programme on immigration, in the hope to attract its electorate. The far-left presents the most humanistic ideas, although outside of EU treaties, while Emmanuel Macron stresses that asylum is a right and migrants are a strength for the economy.

Source Ouest France, 2017

With 74,468 asylum applicants in 2015, France is far from the 722,000 applications received by Germany in 2016. The dismantlement of the Calais camp in October 2016 and the increasing presence of homeless refugees in the streets of Paris have nonetheless led to a renewed debate regarding the oft-cited phrase of belated Socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard that “France cannot welcome all the misery of the world.” The 2015 Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks have stressed the fracture between French society and the children of foreign-born immigrants, often in rupture with their families.

Although employment remains the first preoccupation of French people, the 2017 presidential elections polls show restrictive trends towards immigration. Accordingly, 61% of the French people are in favour of suspending immigration from Muslim countries, that is above the average of 55% of Europeans. In 2016, 57% of the French thought there were too many immigrants in France and 63% were of the opinion that the majority of refugees will not be able to integrate. While Front National and the right-wing parties follow these public opinion trends, Emmanuel Macron, the leader of En Marche!, offers a more liberal approach, in line with European commitments. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate, offers the most human policy, but outside of the European Treaties. Overall, in the French presidential campaign immigration is no longer debated as a societal project but rather as a security and identity issue.

The legacy of the Hollande Presidency

Traditionally known for its humanist approach to immigration, the left-wing government of President Hollande has in fact continued the security approach initiated by his predecessor Sarkozy. Hollande’s mandate started with the Leonarda affair, regarding an irregular immigrant Roma schoolgirl arrested during her school trip and returned back to Kosovo where her family had been expulsed to earlier. Later, he dropped his promise to grant foreigners the right to vote in local elections. In spite of a multi-annual residence permit, the 2014 immigration law facilitates the expulsion of irregular migrants and has been denounced by several NGOs. The 2015 asylum law reduces the delays in the treatment of asylum applications, thus aligning it with EU law. According to the OFPRA, the agency that processes asylum-seeker applications, this delay amounted to 205 days in 2014. Furthermore, asylum seekers whose request for asylum has been refused but cannot be returned to their home countries have not being given any status (see here).

Restrictive (extreme)right-wing programmes

François Fillon, ex-Prime Minister of France under President Sarkozy, and now running for president while under formal investigation for misuse of public funds and fake employment of his wife as a parliamentary assistant, offers a restrictive immigration programme, close to the propositions of Front National. With Fillon as president, the French Constitution would be modified to adopt a quota principle, to be defined by law, on how many residency permits could be delivered. Family reunification would be made harder and, borrowing from the extreme-right lexicon, France’s ‘migratory sovereignty’ would be restored through the renegotiation of European directives. Laws granting French citizenship to French ascendants of more than 65 years old would be repealed.

In Fillon’s vision, immigration should no longer be a burden to French society and he plans to provide family and accommodation allowances only to those residing in France for 2 years or more. State medical help for foreigners will be reviewed, and foreigners will be exempted from paying healthcare costs only in the cases of minors, emergencies and infectious disease, and only in some selected hospitals and clinics. Like Macron, Fillon wants to limit the delays in processing asylum requests to 4 months. Administrative detention of irregular migration will be extended from 45 days to 6 months, the maximum authorized by the EU return directive. The Schengen Treaty will be renegotiated to authorize increased controls at internal borders. Citizenship rules will be tightened up with additional conditions such as a minimum 8 years of residency in France and a minimum 5 years of marriage.

Stopping ‘uncontrolled’ immigration is the selling slogan of the extreme-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Like Fillon Le Pen is under investigation; in Le Pen’s case regarding misuse of European Parliament funds to pay her parliamentary assistants. In her programme, the Front National leader will give ‘national preference’ to French people over what she sees as two evils: globalization and Islam. First, legal migration will be reduced from 200,000 to 10,000 entries per year. In the short term, because she wants to renegotiate the EU treaties, this should not apply to European citizens. Family reunification will also stop. Third, she will suppress the jus soli, the right of place of birth. This right grants French citizenship to anyone born on French territory with at least one French parent. Children born from foreign parents on French territory can also choose for French citizenship when they are 18 years old. State medical help would be suppressed. Fourth, internal borders will be re-established, as France will withdraw from ‘Schengen’. The regularization or naturalization of irregular migrants will no longer be possible.

Pro-immigration programmes

Benoît Hamon, the Socialist candidate supported by Europe Environment Les Verts, the Green party, takes a more liberal stance on immigration. He wants foreigners to have a right to vote in local elections and will accelerate the integration of asylum seekers. They will have the right to work after three months on French territory and will gain more opportunities to learn French. At the EU level, Hamon wants to stop the Dublin system that he considers unfair to Italy and Greece, two countries under important budgetary restrictions. Instead, he proposes a fairer sharing of asylum seekers among EU member states based on their hosting capacities.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left leader, proposes to regularize irregular migrants and to de-criminalize irregular migration. At EU level, Mélenchon wants to replace the European Border and Coast Guard Agency by an agency that will mainly rescue migrants at sea, revise databases on foreigners and biometrics used on the external EU borders. He wants to pursue Euro-Mediterranean cooperation and co-development with Southern and African neighbours. The OFPRA would be attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and no longer to the Interior Ministry, while asylum seekers would be able to work when awaiting their case to be examined. Access to French citizenship would be facilitated.

Emmanuel Macron, the election frontrunner with 26% of voting intentions according to a BVA poll of 25 March 2017, has praised German Chancellor Merkel for her open-door policy. Defending a liberal immigration policy, he considers the welcoming of refugees as a moral duty for France and Europe and has therefore criticized the EU-Turkey deal. His programme develops the following main propositions. First, foreigners’ integration will be improved through offering better facilities for learning the French language and the development of local integration programmes. Second, as Macron considers immigrants as formidable assets for the French and European economies, he wants to speed up the asylum-request process and reduce it to less than 6 months, appeal included.[1] He will introduce ‘talent visas’ to attract the best professionals to France and wants to simplify access to the labour market for all students who have obtained a master’s degree in France. However, Macron does propose an immediate return to the country of origin for those who will not be granted asylum status. At the European level, he proposes to strengthen the European Border Guards Corps, to improve border control in countries of origin and to combat human smuggling, in line with existing commitments.

Looking forward
This campaign has defied any standards about French presidential elections. Notwithstanding the investigations of Marine Le Pen and François Fillon, and the fact that this election takes place under a state of emergency, the two frontrunners include a candidate who claims to be neither left-wing nor right-wing and who until a year ago did not have a party, and an extreme-right candidate whose accession to power no longer shocks anyone. Even if Front National were not to win this election, its presence in the second round would be a strong signal that Marine Le Pen’s propositions are seducing at least one third of the French citizens, and that the threat of the extreme-right is still hanging over France. Given that France is a multicultural society, built on migration, it is disappointing that migration is not regarded as a societal project. Measures to integrate migrants are minimal and it is only very rarely that candidates recall that asylum is a human right. This national disillusionment is also reflected at the European level, where migration is rarely presented as a positive force for European economies in light of the inevitable ageing of populations. This is no good news for immigrants, nor for French and European citizens.

Sarah Wolff @drsarahwolff) is Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London and Senior Associate Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for International Relations and. She is an expert on EU immigration policy. Dr. Wolff can be followed on her blog

 This blog was originally posted on EU-forum Clingendael and appeared also on LSE EUROPP Blog

[1] For reference, today the deadline to examine an asylum appeal can run up to a maximum of five months in France according to the European Council on Refugees and Exile (ECRE). See their 2016 report here.

 

Interview pour RFI sur le nouveau corps européen de gardes Frontières

Pour les lecteurs francophones, voici une interview donnée sur cette nouvelle entité  qui étend les compétences de Frontex sans totalement transformer l’agence

Reportage par Marc Echevery publié le 6 Octobre sur le site de RFI

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Ce jeudi 6 octobre, à la frontière turco-bulgare, 200 garde-frontières européens prennent du service, embryon d’un corps qui pourra en compter jusqu’à 1 500, mobilisables à tout moment pour faire face, notamment, à une pression migratoire exceptionnelle. Adopté au pas de charge, ce projet a été présenté comme une victoire de l’équipe Juncker sur les replis souverainistes et la clé d’une sortie de crise pour l’espace Schengen. Mais qu’en est-il réellement ?

Lorsqu’en décembre 2015, la Commission a proposé de doter l’Union européenne de son propre corps de garde-frontières, beaucoup à Bruxelles ont vu ressurgir un vieux serpent de mer, voué à disparaître, une énième fois, devant la réticence de certaines Etats. Après tout, combien de fois l’idée avait-elle émergé ? Combien de fois a-t-elle été présentée comme un remède au marasme dans lequel se tient le système de libre-circulation Schengen, avant de disparaître ?

Mais cette fois, le contexte a indubitablement joué en faveur de ses tenants. Les six derniers mois de 2015 (comme les premiers de 2016) ont vu l’arrivée de centaines de milliers de migrants, le plus souvent des réfugiés syriens, irakiens, afghans ou encore érythréens, par la « route des Balkans ». Par mer, les migrants africains ont continué d’affluer, dans de périlleuses aventures qui en ont conduit une partie à la mort (11 400 décès répertoriés depuis trois ans). En début de semaine encore, près de 10 000 d’entre eux ont été secourus par la marine italienne. Face à ces arrivées massives, l’Europe s’est pour partie retranchée dans ses nationalismes – certains Etats-membres érigeant des murs, d’autres rétablissant les contrôles aux frontières -, menaçant la sacro-sainte libre-circulation qui en faisait la sève.

Identifier et intervenir

L’Agence européenne de gardes-frontières et de garde-côtes – pour son appellation complète – est de fait une extension du mandat de Frontex, l’agence chargée de coordonner l’effort de surveillance des frontières de l’UE depuis 2005. Mais le tour de force de l’équipe Juncker, président de la Commission européenne, a été de faire accepter à des Etats très attachés à leurs prérogatives nationales l’idée d’un corps de garde-frontières bien équipés et quasi autonome, c’est-à-dire à même de s’autosaisir dès qu’il décèle une faille aux frontières de l’UE. Et ce, même si l’Etat concerné n’a rien demandé.

Voir l'image sur Twitter

« Cela paraît très neuf, mais derrière, il y a quand même des problèmes intrinsèques à Frontex qui existaient par le passé et qui continueront d’exister, tempère d’emblée Sarah Wolff, maître de conférences à la Queen Mary University de Londres et spécialiste de la politique migratoire européenne, notamment pour ce qui est des contrôles aux frontières qui restent une compétence partagée avec les Etats-membres. » Loin de l’impression que laissait la communication bruxelloise, on est encore loin d’une entité supranationale. Car même s’il s’agit d’une réelle avancée en termes d’intégration, cela demeure « une agence qui coordonne » et qui, du reste, ne dispose pas de garde-frontières en propre (lire encadré).

D’ailleurs, certains chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement, pourtant habitués à faire vibrer la corde nationaliste à la moindre occasion, n’y ont rien trouvé à redire. Ainsi le président hongrois, le très populiste Viktor Orban a apporté un soutien remarqué en décembre dernier : « Qu’un Etat-membre ne soit pas en mesure ou ne veuille pas se conformer à ses obligations, les autres[Etats] doivent avoir le droit d’assurer la protection de la frontière. Nous avons en effet besoin de ces outils et mesures », avait-il déclaré en écho à l’annonce de la Commission.

Le pari de Bruxelles

Le groupe de « Visegrad » (Hongrie, Pologne, République tchèque et Slovaquie), qui s’oppose à la politique migratoire de Bruxelles et notamment à son plan de répartition des migrants, soutient dans son ensemble l’initiative. Et cela s’explique : « Le contrôle aux frontières est le plus petit dénominateur commun aux Etats-membres, rappelle Sarah Wolff, puisqu’ils ne sont pas capables de se mettre d’accord sur une politique migratoire beaucoup plus compréhensive. » Protéger les frontières communes pour ne pas avoir à s’écharper sur les questions de quotas. De plus, les pays dans le viseur (Grèce, Bulgarie et peut-être bientôt Italie) ne sont pas actuellement à chercher en Europe centrale.

Les garde-frontières européens en sauveur de Schengen, c’est donc le pari de Bruxelles. Un pari qui n’est pas sans risque : en cas d’échec, l’Europe n’en serait que plus ébranlée. Or la bienveillance affichée par les Etats envers la nouvelle agence peut très bien évoluer. « Frontex s’est attirée une très mauvaise publicité, surtout en Europe de l’Est. Les Etats-membres ont très bien réussi à faire en sorte que les critiques se dirigent vers une agence qui paraît technocratique, basée à Varsovie et qu’on ne connaît pas, estime la chercheuse Sarah Wolff.C’est un bouc émissaire très utile lorsque les Etats ne veulent pas faire face à leurs responsabilités. » Les partis d’extrême droite de plusieurs pays, opposés à cette forme de remise en question de la souveraineté nationale, ont en tout cas déjà fait de la nouvelle agence la cible de leurs critiques, et font monter la pression.

Un mandat opaque dénoncé par des ONG

Du côté des associations d’aide aux migrants, en revanche, point de revirement à attendre. Elles qui voyaient d’un mauvais oeil l’action de Frontex, ne cachent pas leurs craintes devant ce corps de garde-frontières aux prérogatives étendues et aux moyens renforcés. Réunies depuis 2013 au sein du collectif « Frontexit », la FIDH, Migreurop ou encore La Cimade dénoncent l’opacité qui entoure le nouveau mandat.

Selon ces dernières, plusieurs points posent problème, comme par exemple les échanges d’information avec des pays tiers. « Ne soyons pas excessifs, les échanges de données personnelles ne sont pas autorisés, mais rien n’empêche l’agence de recevoir ce type d’information de la part d’un pays hors Europe. La faille existe, assure Marie Martin, chargée des questions migratoires au sein du réseau EuroMed, membre de « Frontexit ». Les personnes dont on a collecté des données ont des droits, au regard de la législation européenne, notamment de modification, de savoir à quoi elles vont servir. A aucun moment il n’est certain que ce type de droits sera clarifié. » Pour la responsable d’EuroMed, plus de collecte et de transmission d’informations signifie mécaniquement plus de risques d’abus.

Deux cent garde-frontières européens doivent être déployés ce jeudi 6 ocotbre à la frontière entre la Bulgarie et la Turquie.NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP

« L’une des choses prévues par l’Union européenne est d’élargir la carte des échanges aux pays de la Corne de l’Afrique, qui font partie du fameux processus de Khartoum de coopération sur les migrations entre UE et Afrique. Et qui dit Khartoum, dit Soudan – mais aussi l’Erythrée pas loin – et là l’échange d’informations, quand bien même elles ne seraient pas personnelles, pose des problèmes. »

Une question de responsabilité

Surtout, ce que redoutent ces associations, ce sont les possibles atteintes aux droits des migrants lors des interventions de l’agence, notamment au cours des retours conjoints organisés par Frontex. Et quid de la collaboration avec les Etats ? Le travail de Frontex, par exemple, aux côtés d’autorités hongroises qui mettent un zèle particulier à refouler les migrants à la frontière serbe, a été maintes fois décrié. A l’heure d’une surenchère anti-migrants, la crainte de voir ces garde-frontières faire le jeu de politiques toujours plus restrictives à l’endroit des migrants demeure.

D’autant qu’en dépit de moyens en personnels et matériels (hélicoptères, images satellites) accrus, l’agence des garde-frontières, comme l’était Frontex, ne sera pas pénalement responsable en cas d’atteintes aux droits fondamentaux des migrants, une demande des ONG. « Il y a bien un mécanisme de dépôt de plaintes, mis en place à la demande des eurodéputés, précise Marie Martin, mais cela relève simplement d’une procédure disciplinaire interne à l’agence. »

Des griefs qui ont peu de chance d’être entendus à la frontière turco-bulgare ce jeudi, une journée que Bruxelles veut avant tout « historique ». Le fonctionnement de l’agence atteindra sa vitesse de croisière sous six mois, alors que l’Europe se prépare à de nouvelles arrivées de migrants sur son territoire.

 

L’AGENCE EN TROIS POINTS

Mandat
La nouvelle agence est une extension du mandat de Frontex, en place depuis 2005. Elle maintiendra une veille permanente aux frontières extérieures de l’Union européenne, mais pourra également travailler dans des opérations conjointes avec des pays extérieurs à l’UE. Elle pourra collecter des données, les traiter et les partager avec Europol ou les Etats-membres. A noter que les garde-côtes de l’agence ont désormais dans leurs attributions le sauvetage en mer et une mission plus large de police en mer.

Effectifs
Les effectifs permanents de Frontex vont passer de 400 à près de 1000. A la demande de la nouvelle agence, les pays membres devront mobiliser rapidement jusqu’à 1 500 garde-frontières. Comme elle s’y était engagée, la France fournira un peu plus de 10 % des effectifs, avec 170 hommes mobilisables.

Autonomie
L’agence pourra identifier les « points faibles » aux frontières de l’UE et s’autosaisir des dossiers. La décision d’intervenir se prendra au niveau du Conseil européen (et non plus de la Commission comme dans le projet initial) à la majorité qualifiée. Si le pays ne coopère pas, les contrôles aux frontières au sein de l’espace Schengen pourront être rétablis pour une durée n’excédant pas six mois. Mais sur le terrain, la responsabilité des opérations incombe à l’Etat-membre.

 

 

The Migration Trail- Dossier

Dear blog followers,

The Broker just published a very interesting dossier on Migration ‘The Migration Trail’. You will find a summary of my research on the role of International Organizations here but also lots of other excellent contributions.

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Migrants Drowning in the Mediterranean- New Op-Ed in The Conversation

Following the drowning of migrants in the Mediterranean, I wrote a new piece for The Conversation. Here’s the link:

http://theconversation.com/deaths-at-sea-scant-hope-for-the-future-from-europes-history-of-failure-on-migrants-40596

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Europe is today the deadliest migration destination in the world and the Mediterranean is becoming an open-air cemetery. In spite of worldwide condemnations – from civil society to global institutions such as UNHCR – the EU’s approach has been hopeless. While deploring deaths at sea, it has been unable, over the past three years, to act as the responsible political authority it ought to be – preferring to leave Italy to tackle the problem alone.

The tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean is a severe blow for the European common migration and asylum policy. Thought of initially as an accompanying measure to the achievement of the EU single market by easing the freedom of movement of people internally, it has drifted towards a Fortress Europe for most outsiders.

In 2004, between 700 and 1,000 died each year as they tried to cross into Europe from Africa depending on whose numbers you consulted. This number almost tripled in 2011and included migrants dying in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Malta, Italy, Spain, Algeria, Greece, but also people shot dead on the Moroccan-Spanish border in Ceuta and Melilla or drowned in the Evros river on the Greek-Turkish border.

Migrants have long tried to escape both poverty and violent conflict by crossing into Europe, but the consensus is that the building of a restrictive common EU migration policy – which allows fewer legal ways of coming to Europe – and more sophisticated surveillance to enforce this policy have contributed to this stark increase in the number of deaths.

So, one of the most popular migrant routes in 2004, the West African route – which involved taking sea passage from West African countries, mainly Senegal and Mauritania, into the Canary Islands – has become largely disused. Compared to the 31,600 illegal migrants detected by Frontex in 2008, only 275 migrants took this route in 2014.

Cooperation between Spain, Mauritania and Senegal involving more sophisticated surveillance – as well as repatriation agreements with West African countries which have returned thousands to their countries of origin – have prompted migrants to take different routes, mainly the central Mediterranean route that goes through Libya. The Gilbraltar strait is now well controlled by the Spanish Integrated System of External Vigilance which has forced migrants to divert via longer and more dangerous routes.

Since the fall of Gaddafi the absence of a stable government in Libya has caused a considerable disruption of border controls in and out of the country which has led human traffickers concentrate their efforts there. And it has also been reported that restrictive border controls in Israel and the Gulf – Saudi Arabia has built a 1,800km fence on its border with Yemen – has prompted many migrants, notably from East Africa, to head for Europe instead. After Syrians fleeing the civil war, Eritreans are the most common nationals found attempting the central Mediterranean route.

Mare Nostrum and Triton

Faced with the indecisiveness of its European partners over the migratory flows the Italian government unilaterally established its Mare Nostrum operation, which ran from October 2013 to October 2014 and patrolled 70,000km in the Sicily Straits at a cost of Euros 9m per month (US$9.6). This involved more than 900 Italian staff, 32 naval units and two submarines taking shifts amounting to more than 45,000 hours of active operations. The Italian navy reports that during the Mare Nostrum operation it engaged in 421 operations and saved 150.810 migrants, seizing 5 ships and bringing to justice 330 alleged smugglers.

But by the end of 2014 the burdens of running Mare Nostrum alone were becoming too much for Italy, which was keen to involve its European partners. The Triton programme, coordinated by the EU border agency Frontex and under the command of the Italian ministry of Interior, was duly established, on a much smaller scale than Mare Nostrum – Triton deploys two ocean patrol vessels, two coastal patrol vessels, two coastal patrol boats, two aircraft and a single helicopter.

It also has no mandate for rescue-at-sea operations since its job is to control EU’s external maritime and land borders. Before last week’s tragedy, 24,400 irregular migrants have been rescued since November 2014, mostly by Italy. Some 7,860 migrants were saved by assets co-financed by Frontex.

Italy has been left to bear the brunt of rescue missions. EPA/Marco Costantino
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The horror at the rocketing numbers of deaths in the Mediterranean in recent weeks has at last prompted the EU to call for concerted action by its member states – and the ten-point action plan endorsed by European foreign and interior ministers on April 20 calls for an strengthening of Frontex Triton and Poseidon’s operations.

But the question of Frontex mandate on rescue at sea has not been addressed and nor has its inadequate budget, which is around Euro 2.9m monthly – just one-third of Mare Nostrum’s. Instead, increased cooperation between Europol, Eurojust, the European Asylum Support Office and Frontex and the deployment of immigration liaison officers to “gather intelligence on smugglers” are very vague action points which appear to merely repackage existing measures.

Needed: a joined-up policy

It is actually quite clear what the EU should be aiming for. First, a much larger rescue-at-sea operation should immediately be put in place. Since Italy halted Mare Nostrum, deaths at sea have increased rapidly. Its inadequate replacement, Triton, provides a convenient scapegoat for politicians who should never have mandated Frontex – the EU Border agency – for the task of rescue at sea in the first place. What is needed from the EU is to agree a collective system of rescue at sea – rather than relying on the efforts of individual EU member states.

Second, there must be safer, legal, avenues for asylum in Europe. Migrants are not just fleeing poverty, they are fleeing violence, danger and repression. At present most of them end up in Libya, which is in itself a very dangerous place; the hope of reaching safety in Europe prompts these refugees to risk highly perilous – and expensive – escape routes. Many are dying at sea.

This is not likely to go away anytime soon and building legal, virtual or real fences won’t help. For some of those migrants, Europe could offer humanitarian visas and others could take advantage of family reunion with relatives already in Europe. Employment programmes could identify jobs to fill key shortages in the European economy. Offering more and easier legal means would necessarily lead to a fall in irregular migration.

We also need to establish a joined-up policy involving not just destination countries, but places of origin and transit countries. For many years the EU has been relying on non-members to police its borders. This is a flawed approach – rather than simply offering financial compensation, the EU needs to revise its incentives and provide what these origin and transit countries want: visa facilitation and trade and access to the EU single market. It’s time to work out an effective cooperation, not merely trying to impose a top-down security agenda, which is doomed to fail. Also doomed to fail is the traditional approach which has relied on southern European states and their neighbours dealing with the surge of refugees.

Meanwhile, in Libya. EPA/STR
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The Dublin convention, which was established in 1990 to regulate the assignment of asylum applications processing, is surely no longer viable. A system that reassigns applications of asylum-seekers to the country they first entered puts southern Europe under excessive strain – especially as countries such as Greece lacks the capacity to host and process applications while observing their human rights obligations. The 2015 Tarakhel vs. Switzerland is the latest of a series of cases which highlight the inefficiency of that system. It is high time to review the notion of “burden-sharing” within the EU.

Not needed: the Australian solution

Tony Abbott’s suggestion that Europe should follow Australia’s example and simply turn boats back, or ship all rescued refugees and migrants to off-shore processing centres is certainly not a serious proposal. By diverting migrants to Papua New Guinea islands of Manus and Naura, Australia has been found to violate its international law obligations. Meanwhile, to Australia’s shame, Amnesty International has documented numerous human rights abuses in these processing centres.

Australia’s refugee policy is not only inhumane, but apparently rather expensive: AU$342.2m ($256.5) was spent by Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for its Civil Maritime Surveillance and Response programme – which involves policing illegal maritime arrivals.

Following Australia’s example is unrealistic as it relies so heavily on siting its offshore facilities in its neighbouring countries. Given the long-standing reluctance of north African and Middle Eastern countries to play that role – and given their own limited capacities, this is never going to work. The migratory flows are much larger, for a start.

Adopting Australian’s offshore processing of boat people would not only contravene EU and international law but would also probably reveal that the EU is going adrift and that, next to a governance crisis, it is undergoing a deep moral and ethical crisis.

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