Monday

16th Sep 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 18 year's of archives. 30 days 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. No new backstop proposal at Juncker-Johnson lunch
  2. Saudi oil production in flames after drone attack
  3. US: attack on Saudi oil came from Iran or Iraq
  4. Poll: Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang largest party
  5. Nationalist parties to support Sanchez if he makes deal
  6. EU finance ministers support simplification of fiscal rules
  7. Italy's Renzi ready to set up new political force
  8. Two independents come top in Tunisia presidential election

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe
  2. France urges EU virtual currency rules amid Libra risk
  3. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  4. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  5. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  6. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  7. Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession
  8. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us