New Migrant Tragedy at Sea, EU Leaders Continue to Push for Tougher Border Controls

new migrant tragedy at sea, eu leaders continue to push for tougher border controls

new migrant tragedy at sea, eu leaders continue to push for tougher border controls

Last week, as rescue efforts in the Mediterranean Sea stalled and bodies were discovered more frequently than survivors from the overcrowded fishing trawler that sank, the European Commission’s president was asked for her thoughts.

“What happened is horrible, and the more urgent it is that we act,” Ursula von der Leyen told reporters at the European Union’s executive branch headquarters in Brussels.

Priorities, she said, should be to assist Tunisian authorities in stabilizing their economy and better-managing migration, as well as to complete the long-awaited reform of the EU’s asylum rules, which is unlikely to happen before next year.

Never mind that the trawler originated in Libya, the admittedly slim chance that survivors might be discovered, or the possibility that this catastrophe could be the worst in Mediterranean history. The response of von der Leyen stood in stark contrast to what had been done a decade earlier.

After visiting the coffins of hundreds of drowned migrants on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa following the deaths of approximately 300 people in October 2013, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso vowed that such tragedies “should never happen again.”

Keep Reading

The Italian navy launched a search and rescue operation in response, but it was suspended a year later because of worries that it would only serve to encourage more migrants to enter the country. Everything the EU has attempted since then has been plagued by concerns about creating a “pull factor.”

EU leaders will discuss von der Leyen’s plans at a summit beginning on Thursday. The work has fallen back on preventing migrants from entering because nations like Austria, Hungary, and Poland are impeding any significant attempt to fairly distribute refugees arriving in Greece, Italy, Malta, or Spain.

However, due to the sensitive nature of European asylum rules, the gathering has the potential to open a can of political worms even when the focus is on mostly uncontroversial issues such as outsourcing the EU’s migrant problems.

According to Frontex, the border and coast guard agency, over 50,300 attempts to enter the EU without authorization were made between January and May. It’s more than double the figure from the same time last year, and the highest since 2017.

Von der Leyen emphasized the need to “limit irregular departures” from Africa and Turkey, to “fight migrant smuggling,” and to “work with partner countries” to ensure that people do not leave or transit those countries in a letter to the leaders.

“Alternative legal pathways,” she wrote, should be found to enter the right way. This frequently entails the possibility of people being resettled in Europe on humanitarian grounds if the United Nations refugee agency recommends it and an EU country is willing to accept some.

“Comprehensive partnerships with third countries,” are critical to the outsourcing strategy.

A new budget proposal would provide Turkey with an additional 3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion) to manage Syrian refugees. This would bring the total EU migrant assistance to the country in recent years to more than 13 billion euros ($14.2 billion).

Morocco would receive 152 million euros ($166 million) in “migration budget support;” and Tunisia would receive 105 million euros ($115 million) in aid and supplies like patrol boats, radar systems, and cameras. Egypt will spend up to 87 million euros ($95 million) to fortify its borders, particularly with Libya, from where the majority of migrants depart, and up to 23 million euros ($25 million) on boats.

Von der Leyen stated that Libya received two more EU-funded patrol boats in February and that the country has “rescued or intercepted” 7,562 people attempting to flee this year. A United Nations fact-finding mission stated in March that migrants in Libya are being subjected to crimes against humanity.

It accused the EU of aiding and abetting migrant abuse through its policies.

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which is still in the works, is the centerpiece of EU policy. Earlier this month, the 27 member countries reached a landmark agreement on a portion of the asylum reform package.

They seem to have struck a balance between which nations should be in charge of receiving migrants once they arrive and how much support other members should offer. However, the European Parliament, which must approve the agreement, is unlikely to be pleased.

Lawmakers insist that countries accept mandatory refugee quotas, which could derail the plan, and leaders risk irreversibly complicating matters if they tinker with what has already been agreed upon.

The reform package, which has been in the works for several years, won’t stop the drownings at sea, according to those present at the European Council, where the 27 heads of state and government will meet over the course of two days.

“You will not stop migrant flows with the Pact,” a senior official said this week, “but you will solve an issue inside” by improving border security, migrant screening, and ties with transit countries. Because of the sensitive nature of the migration talks, he briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.

What is clear is that saving people on unseaworthy boats, such as those from Libya earlier this month, is not a top priority. The EU does not actively patrol the Mediterranean in search of stranded migrants. Its ships only respond to mayday calls in an emergency, as international law requires

Read Previous

Local Election Victory by Anti-Immigration Party Shakes Germany’s Political Landscape

Read Next

Saudi Leader Avoiding “Pariah” Status with LIV-PGA Merger

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x