Is Europe’s migration policy about to change?
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WTF of the week: Boris Becker, Central African diplomat
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End matter: The best few articles from around the web this week
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The Aquarius and possible changes afoot in Europe’s migration policy
The rescue ship Aquarius has taken up Spain’s offer to accept 630 migrants at the port of Valencia, ending a one week odyssey after Italy’s government closed its ports to the NGOs operating the ship.
The story of the Aquarius comes at a pivotal moment for Europe’s migration policy, with potential life and death implications for thousands of African migrants:
- In Italy, a populist coalition with a hard-right interior minister recently entered office. He has vowed to clamp down on migrants crossing the Mediterranean and restrict rescue operations. About 120,000 migrants arrived in Italy in 2017 via the Mediterranean, overtaxing the country’s capacity. Under current EU treaties, the country of first arrival is responsible for processing asylum claims and facilitating deportations. This puts most of the burden on Italy, Greece and Spain.
- France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Spain’s new left leaning prime minister Pedro Sánchez voiced support for a more humane approach. Spain offered a safe harbour to the Aquarius and France said it will take in its passengers if they pass the asylum process. More widely, however, both are trying to limit migration, emphasising that the Aquarius was a one-time exception to the general rule of closed borders and speedy deportations.
- Europe’s longest serving head of government, Germany’s Angela Merkel, is being confronted by her own interior minister. Horst Seehofer is threatening to blow up the coalition if Merkel doesn’t consent to re-instituting strict border controls. Seehofer, whose party is facing a tough challenge from the extreme right in state elections, is unlikely to go through with the threat, but he has certainly increased the pressure on Merkel to effect some kind of reform of the EU’s immigration and asylum system quickly. The deadline for action is the upcoming EU summit.
Unfortunately for Africans hoping to make their way to Europe, the most sensible solution — offering a transparent, quick and generous way to apply for a visa or asylum in an African country of the migrant’s choice — is unlikely to be on the table. Rather, the most likely outcome is an agreement to redistribute a certain number of asylum seekers within Europe, make migrants’ journeys harder, and process asylum claims in internment camps in North Africa. That this will require the EU to increase financial and political assistance to non-democratic regimes that are often a factor in persuading people to look abroad for a better life in the first place.
- Al Jazeera has documented some of the stories of the people rescued by the Aquarius and provides some details on the events of last week
- El País has the details of Spain’s offer to accept the Aquarius, while the Express reports on Macron’s offer to accept the migrants once their asylum claims have been processed
- The Missing Migrants Project, a database collecting migrant fatalities by region, run by the International Organization for Migration. The IOM also has a dashboard collecting data on overall migrant flows across the med
- Details on the agenda and divisions at the upcoming EU summit over at Politico, which also has an in-depth article on EU plans to place “regional disembarkation platforms”, e.g. internment camps, in countries on the EU’s periphery to process asylum claims
Compiled by @PeterDoerrie