Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

Opinion

EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too

EU leaders are preparing for another summit (28-29 June) with a heavy migration agenda. Migrants, potential migrants and smugglers will be listening carefully. Have we anticipated their reactions?

There are some big ideas for change at the EU summit.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • A future protection system would cover fewer people arriving in Europe but provide more cover outside of Europe. (Photo: Henrik Berger Jorgensen)

Many citizens seem to have lost faith in existing frameworks on borders, asylum and migration.

EU leaders are scrambling to rearrange the furniture to make Europeans feel comfortable, with their efforts constrained by the walls of the Refugee Convention and the roof of the European Convention on Human Rights. At the same time, there are many outside the house of Europe looking in, listening intently for a clue about how decisions will impact their ambitions to reach Europe by invitation or irregular migration.

Some politicians get tired of migration and asylum policy, but it's a rare topic of EU politics that interests young men in Nigeria and refugees in Ethiopia.

For example, a Nigerian man trying to migrate irregularly to Europe told us: "My preferred destination is Sweden because it is one of the best countries that cares for and helps the migrants".

Similarly, an Ivorian in Libya explained: "I do realise very well that each country has its own policies regarding migration. This is why I chose the countries that don't have strict rules towards migrants".

What these people do in response to summit decisions will be just as important as what EU citizens think.

Non-citizens from Nigeria to Afghanistan get a binding vote on whatever the EU's internal debates submit to them. They will vote with their feet on whether to keep trying their luck when faced with a new system.

Politicians tend to spend a lot of money testing policy positions on citizens, but in migration and asylum cases, they need to devote the same attention to anticipating reactions from people beyond Europe.

If reforms focus too much on developing crisis response mechanisms, then it's likely the crisis will be permanent.

For example, there may be a lot of effort dedicated to rapid processing and repatriation of people arriving at the EU's borders. This is important to increase integrity of the asylum system. But the strains on countries like Greece in recent years are already beyond crisis levels.

Such surges are likely to occur again.

Beyond the surges, a future protection system for Europe would reduce the probability of permanent settlement for irregular arrivals and expand the attraction of third countries for people who have left home and may now plan a trip to Europe.

Wider than Wilders, smaller than Soros

A future protection system would calculate member states' fair share of contributions based on their effective support across this twin-track system.

Such a system requires a lot more attention to improving the impact of refugee-related aid in third countries, especially its impact on migrant and smuggler decisions.

The basis for an agreement is clear.

A future protection system would cover fewer people arriving in Europe but provide more cover outside of Europe.

It is more globally liberal than right-wing crusaders may like. But it is less stingy than refugee advocates may fear. It is a change in the balance of generosity, but not necessarily the total sum.

In other words, the new approach would be wider than Wilders, but smaller than Soros.

The tough challenge for EU leaders is that the system's nuances are extremely important.

Nuances become opportunities for smugglers and potential migrants to challenge the EU's broad policy ambition.

When there is strong demand for irregular travel, 'small' successes of a few hundred people arriving and settling in Europe become motivations that sustain a smuggling industry for tens of thousands.

As hard as they may try to stay at a high level of debate, the brutal logic of this industry will force EU leaders to keep tinkering with the details.

To make this work, they will need to pay more attention to anticipating how migrants and smugglers respond to specific policy and practical changes in the system.

Jacob Townsend is the CEO of Seefar, a social enterprise with a mission to improve the international protection system for displaced people.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Belgian mayor invites Orban to migrant-diverse town

Winner of 'World's Best Mayor', Mechelen's Bart Somers has invited Hungary's PM to visit. "You know, in the whole of Hungary with 10million inhabitants, they have less Muslims than we have in a small city of 90,000," he told EUobserver.

The Aquarius migrant boat - and the EU policy failings

The precarious situation the Aquarius and its passengers found themselves is a consequence of EU member states' failure to manage migration in a strategic and coordinated manner, where member states beyond those receiving new arrivals are part of the solution.

Analysis

Aquarius, Dublin: Is EU losing grip on asylum reform?

The standoff over the rescue boat, which is now heading to Spain, is part of a wider politically toxic narrative against refugees and migrants and a symptom of EU failures to reform asylum laws.

Fate of EU refugee deal hangs in the balance

Europe's choice is between unplanned, reactive, fragmented, ineffective migration policy and planned, regulated, documented movements of people, writes International Rescue Committee chief David Miliband.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary, Poland block EU conclusions on rule of law
  2. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  3. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  4. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt
  5. Suspected 'middleman' in Caruana Galizia case arrested
  6. European populists more favourable to Russia
  7. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  8. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us