Home Human Rights The EU redoubles its efforts in the face of the failure of its migration policies

The EU redoubles its efforts in the face of the failure of its migration policies

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The EU redoubles its efforts in the face of the failure of its migration policies

The wave of controversies surrounding European migration policies towards North African countries – mainly Tunisia, the main maritime departure point for refugees and migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe – raises serious questions about the sustainability and ethics of these existing strategies. Worrying about a precarious political environment and a growing human rights crisis, the contours of these policies have proven not only ineffective in curbing the flow of irregular migration, but have also significantly contributed to amplifying the problems existing – a classic case of doubling down on a failing policy. , one could argue.

There is no shortage of alarming stories about mismanagement of migration in Tunisia, highlighting tactics that deviate significantly from the principles of human rights and international law. Allegations of horrific abuses, from indiscriminate expulsions of asylum seekers to collusion of security forces with smuggling networks, paint a grim picture of a system fundamentally flawed on several fronts. In the summer of 2023 alone, an estimated 86 percent of illegally deported sub-Saharan Africans were reported to have experienced physical violence, with an astonishing 85 percent attributing this violence to the hands of security forces – a series of alarming findings that highlight the seriousness of the situation.

Yet while stories of systematic abuse, corruption and collusion flood in, they never succeed in disrupting the irregular migration flow, a glaring testament to the severity of the failure of deterrence and outsourcing policies. EU. Add to this the EU’s strategic attempts to curb movement along the Tunisian coast, for example, and the country has created a dark spiral of human suffering, without reporting any significant alteration. fundamental challenges that underpin human mobility.

In addition, Tunisia’s socio-economic context, faced with underdevelopment, poor governance and regional insecurity, significantly exacerbates this problem. The government’s response, lacking any coherent strategy or policy, oscillates between xenophobic rhetoric, abusive practices and draconian actions.

Can these strategies, supported by the EU and the United States, be validly defended when they seem guided by a culture of impunity and a total disregard for the rule of law?

The humanitarian catastrophe besetting Tunisia is, in large part, a self-inflicted wound born of misguided policies. The situation calls for a radical rethinking of the position on migration cooperation with Tunisia, a position that prioritizes safeguarding human security by favoring sustainable solutions rather than knee-jerk reactions and policies rooted in exclusion and deterrence. Anything less than that would only double down on a profound policy failure – an untenable proposition at a time when the stakes could not be higher.

Current approaches are not only ineffective, but also unsustainable.

Hafed Al Ghwell

Current approaches are not only ineffective, but also unsustainable and, given the catastrophe they have created, highly indefensible. Yet such assessments seem lost in the fog of Brussels’ stubborn pursuit of a problematic agenda, particularly these border externalization strategies designed in 2021. Under this axiom, the EU has enthusiastically encouraged cooperative agreements migration with at least 14 countries. With a multibillion-euro war chest aimed at strengthening border controls, besieging smugglers and thwarting the flow of asylum seekers and migrants, policy has been largely inflexible .

The implementation of this strategy was seen as a preventive measure aimed at thwarting the overall movement of migrants – mainly from the Western Balkans, the Middle East and Africa – before crossing the EU’s external borders. . On paper, this seemed a tenable course of action; however, this did not yield the expected results. Far from slowing migration, the EU’s extravagant spending on border management and fortification has inadvertently accelerated the humanitarian crisis.

Even more troubling are the revelations contained in a letter from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, which outlines upcoming plans to establish “new operational anti-smuggling partnerships” with Tunisia and Egypt. The audacity of this plan lies in its blatant neglect of well-documented accounts of abuse against migrants in both countries. Such malicious neglect adds to a habitual disregard for the proximal determinants of migration, effectively hindering the development of a targeted approach or strategy.

There is simply no appetite, no political capital, or even notable civil society advocacy for measures that go beyond securitization and deterrence by focusing on systemic changes that address drivers of irregular migration while channeling dramatic increases in emergency support services for displaced people. Instead, we are seeing the perpetuation and institutionalization of unfortunate and knee-jerk responses from Brussels, born from framing the influx of migrants as a security and political issue rather than admitting it. as a humanitarian crisis that it most certainly is. This simplified understanding of a complex phenomenon effectively glorifies a culture of dismissing obvious failures as the simple consequence of insufficient funding or security mobilization.

The vicious cycle of misdiagnosis and mistreatment does more harm than good.

Hafed Al Ghwell

The vicious cycle of misdiagnosis and mistreatment does more harm than good. Conventional wisdom about border controls and migration deals, while having their place, must shift towards addressing the root causes that drive thousands of desperate people to risk dangerous journeys, abuse, neglect and indefinite detention to have a chance of reaching Europe. A particular focus on human-centered policies that address key drivers of migration, such as conflict, poverty and inequality, is not only desirable but also an absolute necessity. Until the EU adjusts its position on this issue, it risks further escalating the humanitarian catastrophe, while simultaneously bleeding its resources with insignificant, if any, gains to show for it.

As Europe cannibalizes its budget and diverts funding from development aid and conflict management towards the construction of a “Fortress Europe”, there is little left to finance targeted solutions intended to improve living conditions and to stem migratory flows from States of origin. It is unlikely that the current political environment, increasingly supportive of anti-immigrant rights, will ever agree to create legal and safe pathways for asylum seekers and refugees. Nor will boilerplate messages about honoring human rights commitments galvanize sufficient public support for alternative approaches to what is rapidly snowballing into the next Europe’s biggest crisis – Ukraine notwithstanding.

While some may understand the EU’s clumsy attempts to avoid a hybrid crisis, its current approaches are inadequate and, in many ways, counterproductive. What is needed today more than ever is a serious change of course in European migration policies. This can at least start with ensuring transparency and accountability on migration spending, as the current opacity of funding and lack of accurate data make it difficult to assess the cost and effectiveness of border outsourcing.

Beyond this, Europe must address a discernible vulnerability in the way third countries continue to weaponize desperate migrants, turning them into a tool of leverage and geopolitical gaming. If this dynamic persists, Europe risks becoming a financier and guarantor of blatant failures and the tragic consequences of its multiplication of failures.

Hafed Al-Ghwell is a senior fellow and executive director of the North Africa Initiative at the Foreign Policy Institute at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC.

X: @HafedAlGhwell

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News.


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