Migrant Numbers Soaring Again: Little Help for Italy in Sight

Written by | Friday, July 21st, 2017

The Italian Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, recently urged European leaders to help his country respond to the rising number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and reaching the Italian shores. Rome has been calling for more burden-sharing and redistribution of migrants across the bloc, which has intensified recently in the light of more illegal crossings from Libya to Italy – a situation that has led to more than 10,000 refugees arriving in the country in recent weeks. Asylum applications are currently 25% than they were at the same time this year – a number that is likely to go up when the June and July data becomes available.

If the trend continues, which it probably will given the fact that high season is only beginning, Italy will likely further intensify its voice within the EU. Another reason for the urgency of the situation is the lack of implementation of the relocation scheme that was decided in 2015, whereby 35,000 asylum seekers should have been relocated from Italy among member states before September of this year. So far, only 7,300 have left the country under the scheme.

Another option to boost efforts to decrease the number of people arriving in Italy is to return those migrants that are not eligible for asylum to their home countries. Doing this will also lessen the migrants’ incentive to embark on the perilous journey crossing the Mediterranean, which also subjects the migrant to numerous human rights violations on the Libyan side, including human trafficking and smuggling.

However, readmission – that is returning migrants – poses legal difficulties and therefore the European Commission is in talks with a few focus countries (Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal) from which many migrants embark on their journey to Europe. The EU therefore needs to expand the partnership with these countries and work on pathways to legal migration to provide more incentives for those countries to comply with the rules. This will in practice require a number of EU member states to propose frameworks for legal migration.

Another way forward is also to build and keep training facilities in the focus countries where a part of those trained would be offered (temporary) work permits to the EU.  Such ‘work-for-readmission’ deals could be done in a forward-looking manner so that only new arrivals after a given date are subject to readmission. While these proposals are certainly no all-cure, given the dire state of an EU-wide migration and asylum policy, can we afford not to try?

‘Mediterranean Migrants: Little Help on Offer’ – Analysis by Mikkel Barslund and Lars Ludolphyf – Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

(The Analysis can be downloaded here)

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