Karolina Boronska-Hryniewiecka, Kinga Brudzinska and Patrycja Sasnal (The Polish Institute of International Affairs)
In recent years, Europe has been facing one of the greatest waves of migrants from the poorest countries in Africa and the Middle East, many of whom have been hit hard by repressions and armed conflicts. Thousands of migrants have drowned in the smugglers’ vessels drifting across the rough Mediterranean seas after many days spent in inhumane conditions, for which they had to pay exorbitant prices to the unscrupulous criminal smuggling gangs. The embarkation on the vessels bound for Europe means liberation for the migrants, while this constitutes a problem for the Europeans, particularly when the very same migrants reach Europe’s shores. The whole phenomenon is problematic not only morally but also politically and economically. The European society is growing older and it will need migrant workforce in the coming years. In order to keep the same ratio of the productive population, it will be necessary to triple the intake of migrant workforce.
The primary destinations for most international migrants are Italy, Malta, and Greece. With these countries’ relevant authorities overstretched, errors in the asylum administrative systems are increasingly common and, to circumvent the lopsided legislation, refugees are being relocated to other countries. Most migrants then end up in Germany, Sweden, France or the United Kingdom. These countries are calling for solidarity and shared responsibility for accepting migrants in the EU, while some of the other EU members do not want to accept any more refugees. Countries like Poland, Czech or Slovak Republics, which have not been significantly affected by the recent rise in illegal migration, who accept migrants only sporadically, also disagree with any binding solution, such as the system of quotas recently put forward by the European Commission.
EU Member States have so far agreed to increase spending on the naval operations in the Mediterranean as well as on the measures aiming to destroy smugglers’ vessels before they can be used. They are also planning to ask the United Nations for their approval of a EU military operation against smugglers and human traffickers. These solutions should, however, be only an option of the last resort. The destruction of vessels will not decrease demand and it will only alienate the Libyan population. Moreover, entering the Libyan territorial waters could drag the international community into a protracted conflict. A more effective solution should include the creation of robust search and rescue operation EU forces and also the expansion of the current operations into Libyan coastal waters. A long-term sustainable plan should also include the centralization of the existing replacement and resettlement tools in such a way that the participation would be mandatory but at the same time also fair. Ideally based on socio-economic indicators such as GDP or unemployment rate, the long-term program should focus on the integration of refugees into the European society. Last but not the least, these EU migrant policies should be simultaneously promoted through a media campaign designed to balance the widespread anti-immigration rhetoric.
(The study can be downloaded here)