Even as migration pressure at the Greek border is on the rise, the 2013-2017 “migration crisis” is increasingly in the past. Yet, EU countries still struggle to come up with solutions to foster safe, orderly, and regular migration pathways. Europeans continue to look in the rear-view mirror.
The European Union’s Operation EUNAVFOR MED “Sophia” will end this March, to be replaced by a different operation altogether. First much vaunted, then much taunted, Operation Sophia is the perfect symbol of how poisonous the debate around rescuing lives at sea in the Mediterranean has become over the past few years. And it is also a symbol of something larger: the failure of EU Member States to come to an agreement on how to manage migration in a sensible, rational, and evidence-based way.
In early November, Italy decided not to withdraw from the memorandum of understanding (MoU) it signed with Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in February 2017. The MoU established a framework for cooperation between Libya and Italy “in the development sector, combating illegal immigration, human trafficking and contraband, and strengthening border security”.
A Policy Paper published by the European University Institute and authored by Eugenio Cusumano (Leiden University) and Matteo Villa (ISPI) questions the relationship between the presence of NGOs in the Mediterranean sea and the number of migrants leaving Libyan shores.
Over the last few months, global TV networks have transmitted images of waves of people fleeing from Central America (CA). Many of them came so far as to risk their lives by trekking 3,700 km carrying children on their backs, crossing two to three borders illegally and fording torrential tropical rivers. These images de facto called attention to a phenomenon that is eradicated in CA, the causes of which bear strong economic and social implications.
Italy has a migration problem, just not the one it thinks it does. To illustrate the challenges facing the country, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini continues to point south, at people coming by boat across the Mediterranean.
In President Donald Trump’s February 5 State of the Union Address, he all but strayed from his unwavering stance that there is a national crisis at the southern U.S.-Mexico border, due to the supposed illicit crossing of immigrants who threaten “the safety, security, and financial well-being of all America”. Trump did, however, voice his favor for legal immigration, and the responsibility the U.S. has to protect those who have entered the country legally.
Unseaworthy dinghies, swinging in rough seas, having to withstand the weight of men, women, and children. Hundreds of thousands of people, marching together towards Hungary’s barbed-wire fences. European diplomats, desperately looking for a way to manage the chaos. Soldiers at the borders, crammed reception centres, shoes washed up on shores.
The debate in Italy and Europe on how to govern migration often revolves around national policies and politics. The irregular arrival of migrants on European shores has focused public attention on how to manage migratory flows at the macro level, something that falls inevitably under the responsibility of the central government of each member state, or of the EU as a whole.
Two years have passed since the refugee deal between the European Union and Turkey that officially closed the so-called "Balkan Route". But in these two years, facts have shown that this route has not been completely closed: it has only changed its directions and has become even more dangerous for migrants who are trying to reach Europe.