05. Juli 2017 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „The Guardian view on the return of the migrant boats: Europe’s problem“ · Kategorien: Europa, Italien

The Guardian | 05.07.2017

There have been at least 2,000 drownings already this year. This is a moment for the revived EU to show some solidarity

High summer is migrant season in the Mediterranean. In rising numbers, men, women and children set off in the flimsiest of craft for Italy. So far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, at least 2,000 people have drowned in the attempt. This is made all the worse by the equivocation and even the hostility of EU states which make little show of solidarity; today Austria announced it was ready to send troops and tanks to stop migrants crossing the border from Italy. The Mediterranean is already the world’s worst maritime cemetery. Italy, which finds itself on the receiving end of this migration, urgently needs more European support than is currently on offer. Lest anyone doubt it, this applies to the UK government too: last year, only 13,000 asylum claims were granted.

The numbers are not as staggering as they were, but this year’s migration crisis is no less tragic and no less diplomatically fraught. The number entering Europe by sea so far is 100,000, half last year’s number for the same period. Four-fifths of them arrived in Italy. Migrant centres are overwhelmed. The Italian government says the situation is “unbearable”. Last week it threatened to close its ports to ships used by NGOs to rescue migrants. It wants other coastline states – Spain and France – to offer points of arrival. A flurry of EU meetings – with another one due on Thursday in Tallinn – has so far produced little concrete help, while a proposed EU “code of conduct” for NGOs risks limiting their action. NGOs are furious that their humanitarian work has been described as creating a “pull factor”: they say that is finger-pointing rather than tackling the real issues.

It is to Italy’s credit that, in 2013, it became the first European country to launch a life-saving operation, Mare Nostrum. Since then, search and rescue operations have been internationalised. But little has been done to make the welcoming effort a genuinely Europe-wide one. Refugee relocation plans have been more of a concept than a reality. To date, an EU plan originally intended for tens of thousands has led to the resettlement of only 7,354 people from Italy. Yet, although Italy’s frustration is understandable, blocking humanitarian ships cannot be the right answer. There are more sustainable solutions. It is lack of political will that makes them unattainable. EU migration policies need to be overhauled. Fear of a populist backlash leaves governments wary of creating the safe, legal routes that would allow an orderly processing of asylum claims. Not all migrants are entitled to asylum, but all asylum claims must be fairly examined. Crisis management that centres on border control, even if it is pushed back to Libya’s southern borders, is not enough. Outsourcing the problem to Libya’s coastguards or militias only makes it worse.

The UNHCR says there is “no slowing down” of migrant movements to Libya. That is likely to mean ever larger numbers trying to travel the central Mediterranean route to Europe. Last year’s EU-Turkey agreement managed to stem migrant and refugee movements across the Aegean Sea, but to a large extent it has only displaced the problem. It is no surprise that Libya, a country of three competing governments, plunged in internal chaos, has become a network of ruthless and sometimes murderous traffickers, and the new flashpoint.

The mounting concerns of the centre-left government in Rome may not be motivated only by human tragedy, but also by the fear that uncontrolled migration will help either the far right or the Five Star movement make gains in the coming elections. Europe has a collective interest in thwarting such an outcome, just as it does in upholding its commitment to the principle of asylum. That can only be done through coordination across the EU. Migration is a long-term problem. But with the so-called summer season under way, pledges of solidarity must urgently be translated into action. Italy’s problems are not only Italian but European too.

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