Europe’s Refugee Crisis: Abandoning the Militarist Approach

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Part III of the series of reports on the #YouthOnMigration seminar in Malta, organized by FYEG and ADZ Green Youth, with participants from the FALAFEL network, a collaboration of various Euro-Mediterranean civil society organizations. (Full Series here)

 

The panel debate on Day 3 of the #YouthOnMigration seminar covered intense discussions about the imperative of a common European migration policy. The attendees were keen about the topics being discussed, especially since that all facets of the subject matters on migration were being tackled from diverse points of view.

The crucial need for a unified policy was clearly highlighted by Prof. Arnold Cassola, party leader of the Democratic Alternative, Malta’s green party, in which he mentioned some alternatives of better handling of the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s borders, such as the abandonment of a militarist approach and the adoption of a system of responsibility sharing.

In a subsequent interview with the Ecosprinter, Prof. Cassola highlighted his take on potential long-term solutions he mentioned in the panel debate that would be sustainable and vital.

This included the pursuit of genuine structural engagement with northern African states such as Libya, a country which is considered to be a transit state for migrants to reach Europe.

To him, it would be productive for Europe to be involved in structural engagement with the country by enhancing community development to attain improvement.

 

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Prof. Cassola:

“Libya is a pivotal factor at the moment.  First of all, the EU should contribute to facilitating the formation of a unity government in Libya.  This is not an easy thing to achieve since until now the Tripoli faction is refusing to be part of it.  Secondly, the international community should encourage Libya to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention. This has always been refused by the Libyan authorities.  Generous development cooperation packages with Libya should be offered to encourage change on the part of the local authorities.”

As a solution to the latter suggestion, a way to incentivize Libyan authorities to comply with international law by ratifying the 1951 Refugee Convention would be to offer generous development cooperation packages with the country. This would encourage actual change.

Currently, Europe contracts out African states to handle the migration crisis. This practice should be abandoned. Outsourcing of refugee protection in North African states should be condemned, considering that the asylum procedures in those states do not conform with adequate rule-of-law standards.

European Greens MEP Ska Keller, in an interview with the Guardian in March regarding a plan to outsource procedures:

“This proposal raises major concerns. The underlying motive is to ensure that the EU can wash its hands of the problem by ensuring that rescued refugees are dealt with by countries like Egypt and Tunisia and that they never become the responsibility of an EU jurisdiction. Paying North African countries to deal with the issue is yet another cynical proposal.”

Combating traffickers is also important, according to Prof. Cassola. When he was inquired on his take on a the EU’s militarist approach in destroying trafficking networks in North Africa by sinking smugglers’ boats before departing, he maintained that taking militarist action is problematic and that the diplomatic way is the only measure that can achieve results.

Prof. Cassola:

“How will the EU distinguish between traffickers’ boats and bona fide fisherman and merchants? Who will take the risk to attack a boat, if there is a risk that there are innocent civilians on it?  Despite the chaotic situation in Libya and now the presence of ISIS in certain area which complicates matters, I still believe that the diplomatic solution is the only one that can attain results.”

The diplomatic solution should always be the solution, but currently, EU member states cling to nationalist and legalist approaches where they value their sovereignty over the interests of the Union and the citizenry. Such mentality must be abandoned and the push for a common EU policy on migration must transpire.

People that find refuge in transit states are in need of European aid. About 500,000 refugees are in Libya waiting to attempt to cross the Med. They are settling there under harsh conditions governed by an unstable state. Locals in cities and villages there are being outnumbered by the growing influx of migrants that are causing problems with integration.

There must be alternative and secured ways for refugees to seek asylum. Border surveillance and security, the war on smugglers and massive pushbacks and deportations are not ideal solutions, for they do not comply with fundamental European principles. It’s time for the continent to go beyond short-term national interests and promote the collective interests of the citizens of the world, and not just Europe.

 

(Featured image courtesy of Sara Prestianni/noborder network)