Migration Crisis: Will the EU stick to its values?

On the 20th of April, more than 800 immigrants died in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to seek asylum in the EU. This incident is only one part of a series of immigrants dying on their way to enter the EU. Since the Arab Spring, the situation in the North-African countries and most of the countries in the Middle East got worse day by day. Additionally, the rise of the IS forced thousands to flee from their homes and destabilized the region. These are the two main reasons, why the number of immigrants seeking help in the EU reached its all-time peak.

But with the increasing number, the dangers and responsibilities increased, too. According to the “International Organization for Migration” Europe is “the world’s most dangerous Destination”. This statement is underscored with the total number of 22.000 people who died on their way to Europe since the year 2000.

One of the legal actions taken by a European country was “Mare Nostrum”. The Italian operation (Latin for “Our Sea”) was a year-long naval and air operation to tackle and condemn uncontrolled immigration. The operation saved the lives of more than 150.000 people. For no known reason none of the other European countries supported Italy’s efforts, so the country was forced to completely finance the operation with tax money. But since the country faced economic problems and a high rate of youth unemployment, the government was not able to uphold the operation.

The main task was to prevent the death of thousands of immigrants. Due to its location, Italy is one of the countries with the highest amount of immigrants. But additional to the location, the Dublin Regulation strains countries such as Italy and Greece, because it determines that immigrants have to stay in the country they have firstly entered the EU through. This leads to an imbalance amidst European countries.

The bigger problem is that out of the 28 countries within the EU, only 7 accommodate immigrants. Because of the recent tragedies, the European council scheduled a crisis summit in April 2015. Every member state participated and the goal was to condemn illegal immigration. Result of the summit was a 10-point plan with different attempts and ideas to prevent smugglers from risking the lives of thousands of immigrants.

According to Frederica Morgherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the plan includes, among other things, strategies to capture and destroy illegal vessels, supporting Italy and Greece in their efforts and to rise the budget of Frontex´ border patrol programs (TRITON, POSEIDON).

Frontex is the European equivalent of e.g. Australia’s “Border Protection Service”. Its main goal is to prevent smuggling of becoming an attractive business model and to seal off the European naval borders from illegal immigration. This is one of the main reasons why critics from all over the world see the 10-point-plan as a big fraud. Justin Forsyth, chief executive at Save the Children, said: “What we needed from EU foreign ministers today was life-saving action, but they dithered.”

Several international NGO´s (e.g. “Amnesty International”, “European Council on Refugees and Exiles”) affiliate with the critic, pointing out that the focus should be on saving lives rather than harming the smuggling business. Other voices underline that supporting the southern states such as Greece and Italy, should manifest in immediate financial assistance and administrative support. Leaving those countries alone with their huge task is seen as one of the vast bureaucratic injustices in the EU.

It is inexplicable that Germany and Sweden alone harbor more than 50% of the immigrants. Consequently Germany brought up the idea of a European rate that would allocate the immigrants to every member state. This ratio would consider the size and economical condition of each country. Recent studies show, that the conditions in refugee camps in countries such as Romania and Greece are not acceptable. “Pro Asyl” interviewed witnesses who frequently reported of sexual abuse, unhygienic living space and food shortage. The new rate would prohibit such incidents.

All things considered, it is clear to say that a wave of big issues is rolling towards the European institutions. It is the task of the European politicians to find a reasonable and appropriate response concerning this humanitarian crisis. In previous and similar situations, such as Serbia or Ukraine, the EU attracted attention with its reluctant and discordant behaviour. People fleeing from war and persecution need strong institutions which see human rights as universal values- and which are ready to take actions to enforce them.

By Celal Cagli

Picture source: Vito Manzari from Martina Franca (TA), Italy (Immigrati Lampedusa) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


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