Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Opinion

Migration: Europe's wakeup call

  • "Anti-immigration attitudes are ever more important in the continent’s politics" (Photo: Steve Rhodes)

Europe faced a wakeup call on 19 April. The capsizing of a boat carrying African migrants to Italy was hardly the first incident of its kind—last year, more than 3,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean while attempting to reach Europe—but it was the deadliest, claiming as many as 900 lives.

The latest tragedy made clear what was already painfully obvious: that Europe as a whole has a moral obligation to address this crisis, not just leaving its responsibility to the countries in the South.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • "A humane mechanism for foreigners to legally enter the EU is needed" (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

There are encouraging signs that the EU is beginning to comprehend the urgency of the situation.

Shortly after the disaster, the European Commission released a draft ten-point plan calling for stronger efforts to tackle smugglers and greater cooperation in rescue and patrol operations.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose country receives most of the migrants trying to enter the EU, has gone even further, urging the creation of centres in Africa for processing asylum applicants.

And the last week’s emergency summit, while disappointing from a humanitarian standpoint (the resulting policies were focused on reaction and security rather than prevention) also signalled the EU’s new seriousness in dealing with this crisis.

These are welcome steps, but they alone will not solve the migrant situation.

The number of people seeking haven in Europe has increased as a result of deepening conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Yemen and deteriorating human rights situations in many African nations. As long as these conflicts and abuses continue, people will continue to flee them for the relative stability and prosperity of Europe.

Only by establishing a comprehensive and humane mechanism for foreigners to legally enter the EU can the continent stem the tide of migrants and reduce the body count in the Mediterranean.

Extreme nationalism

Europe faces a major obstacle to the implementation of a successful immigration policy, however the growing extreme nationalism sentiment that has recently become a troubling fixture of its politics.

In Greece—another nation receiving many immigrants each year—the country’s third most popular party is Golden Dawn, whose main spokesman sports a swastika tattoo and whose 2012 campaign slogans included: “So we can rid the land of this filth.”

In Italy, the Italian Northern League calls for an end to unauthorised immigration, espouses anti-Roma ideas, and wants Italy to leave the Euro; it won 19% of the vote in a regional election last year.

Even traditionally tolerant nations like France and Sweden have seen a surge in prejudice.

The sluggish EU economy has not helped. In times of uncertainty, low-wage workers often blame immigrants for taking their jobs, though there is little evidence for these claims.

Europe’s revived xenophobic-nationalism has many disturbing implications.

Where the migrant issue is concerned, in the short term, it threatens to scupper any proposal for properly dealing with the catastrophe unfolding on Europe’s southern shores.

Anti-immigration attitudes are ever more important in the continent’s politics, and political leaders seeking to be elected will take advantage of this.

British prime minister David Cameron, for instance, agreed to contribute boats to the EU’s expanded prevention and rescue efforts, but he and other northern European leaders continue to dither about the question of allowing immigrants to enter their countries.

What kind of Europe?

The stakes are much higher in the long term.

How Europe chooses to tackle trans-Mediterranean migration is a question of what kind of place Europe wants to be.

Does it want to be a democratic, peaceful, and pluralistic group of nations, as the EU’s founders envisioned? Or does it want to be a fractious, hostile and authoritarian land whose highest ideals are eroded by fear and hate?

The consequences of taking the latter route are enormous.

Refusing to treat immigrants humanely will harm Europe’s faltering economy. Contrary to those who claim to protect Europe from foreigners, anti-immigrant policies would only lend credence to radical extremists who paint Europe as a racist land.

And such policies would be a danger for its democratic systems and also deprive Europe of the moral high ground in conducting its foreign policy, a grave blow to world order.

But above all, failure to act in concert to end a human rights crisis in its midst would represent another blow to the increasingly troubled European experiment.

The EU was created to ensure that the horrors of the World Wars would never be repeated, that hate and bigotry would never again reign in Europe.

The migrant crisis puts that proposition to the test - a test Europe cannot afford to fail.

Frank La Rue is the Executive Director of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Europe

EU to target migrant smugglers

EU leaders on Thursday declared war on migrant smugglers and promised to triple the monthly budget of the EU’s sea surveillance mission, Triton.

Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme

Growth predictions are positive, exports increasing, unemployment dropping and credit-ratings up, says the head of Greece's Syriza delegation to the European Parliament. Now the government in Athens is looking to design its own reform programme.

Analysis

We are not (yet) one people

Talks on the next EU budget will start on Friday. Brussels wants to do much more than before – and needs a lot more money. But arguing about funds won't be enough.

Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills

The European Commission is considering rolling back medical research incentives, on the faulty assumption they are somehow driving higher drug prices. But not only is that premise flawed – the proposed fix will do nothing to benefit ordinary health consumers.

News in Brief

  1. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  2. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  3. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012
  4. MEP Andrieu will chair parliament pesticide committee
  5. Juncker's right-hand man warns of 'institutional blockage'
  6. Greek parliament to open probe on PMs and EU commissioner
  7. May gathers Brexit ministers to hammer out UK position
  8. Tajani asks Juncker for all EMA Brexit relocation documents

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  2. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  3. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  4. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  5. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums
  6. Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress
  7. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  8. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission