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New Pact on Migration: it all ends with a stalemate while Europe plays with migrants’ lives

by Stefano Galieni Co-coordinator of the EL Migration WG 

They labeled it “New pact on migration and asylum”, and it has been preceded by an intense media campaign. But the proposal presented on 23 September by the European Commission is far from being “new”: it raises only “new” concerns. In a nutshell, the draft proposal introduces incentives to strengthen the borders, to catch refugees, some Erasmus projects for qualified young people, but nothing else. 

The text was launched by the media as the instrument for “overcoming the Dublin Regulation”, saying it would bring a “solidarity obligation” in the distribution of asylum seekers among the 27 EU countries, and would establish duties in the interest of the newcomers.  

To date, the outcome is different and the proposal seems to satisfy no one – except the Commission, who thinks that it is enough to declare its intention to protect vulnerable people in order to affirm that we live in a more humane and inclusive Europe.   

First of all, the populist governments of the “Visegrad Group“, followed by Austria and the Scandinavian ones, have made it clear that they do not intend to accept the obligations that have been proposed. Moreover, Italy and Greece, who would have welcomed a more operational agreement enabling the relocation of migrants, are left rather disappointed. On one side, applying the proposed mechanisms has been widely perceived as difficult – the proposal is still to be examined by the Council and Parliament, where it could be even worsened. On the other, the proposal does not seem to bring a real discontinuity with a past made of failures.  Moreover, the proposal is based on three dangerous principles: 

  1. Enhanced collaboration with both the countries of origin and transit in order to limit the departures of migrants and improve the efficiency of expulsion/repatriation operations. For the Commission, only 20% of migrants are actually entitled to received asylum. The other 80% belongs to the “illegal economic migrants” group and have to be expelled, with the exception of vulnerable people, like minors, unaccompanied minors and women considered to be at risk of being trafficked. 
  2. Borders control: by increasing resources for Frontex and for the European Border and Coast guard, the Commission would like to ensure a greater commitment to sea rescues, quicker procedures for identification (5 days) and processing (12 weeks).  By the end of the procedure, those entitled to asylum will be distributed among the countries willing to receive them
  3. For those countries that do not accept migrants, the possibility of sponsorship returns is offered, i.e. they have the possibility to cover the costs of sending back individuals, who in the meantime will have to stay in the arrival countries. 

Far from going beyond the Dublin Regulation (the Commission itself admits that it does not take into account the reform proposals made in 2016), the proposal is just a compromise that favours right-wing forces, undermines the right to asylum and that will worsen the current system.  

No measure will be taken to grant legal entry into the EU, but on the contrary, the Commission is focusing on a policy that has consistently failed in the past, namely that of expulsions, and seems to ignore two key aspects: 

  • After 2015/16, the number of arrivals by land and sea has decreased drastically (less than one-tenth) and therefore the proposed measures are not justified.  
  • Moreover, if the Pact is applied on a large scale, there will only be an unjustified number of cases of forced detention for those who arrive, who will remain waiting for responses to asylum applications. 

The Left must propose a different Europe, establishing a relationship with the rest of the world based on equality of rights and opportunities. That is why not only the Dublin Regulation but all the instruments that put in place a neo-colonial and criminalizing policies must be abolished at their roots. 

As of today, the Pact will only further raise the walls of the Fortress, although it is clear that men and women have the right to escape not only wars and dictatorships but also environmental catastrophes, poverty and economic crises for which our opulent continent is often accountable for