Same problem, same mistakes? European Commission unveils new plan for migrant crisis

Same problem, same mistakes? European Commission unveils new plan for migrant crisis

The European Commission’s latest plan to tackle the worsening EU migrant crisis risks repeating the same mistakes of recent years.

In late May, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced  that the death toll in the Mediterranean Sea, for the first 5 months of this year, has reached 2,510 – far exceeding the 1,855 and 67 in the first months of 2015 and 2014 respectively. According to the same agency, 203,981 migrants made it safely to Europe, out of which a quarter made the journey from North Africa to Italy, the most dangerous route.

The data is supported by the Missing Migrants Project, an NGO funded by the UK government which traces migration data from all European countries and relevant agencies, which shows May 2016 as the second most fatal month since the beginning of the migration wave. In total, the UN said, the number the death toll since 2014 now stands at 10,000.

Source: Missing Migrants Project

Monthly recorded deaths in the Mediterranean between 2014-2016

The same day as the UN announcement, the European Commission outlined its new plan to contain the migrant crisis and the allocation of 8 billion euro between 2016 and 2020.

Under the “New Migration Partnership Framework” Brussels will allocate 3.6 billion euros in development aid and is asking the members to come up with a matching amount. The main beneficiaries, third countries, either of origin or transit in Africa and Middle East, are expected to contain migration, receive returned migrants, create a mechanism of support for asylum-seekers and tackle the criminal networks specialized in migrant smuggling.

The initiative is meant to emulate the agreement with Turkey which allowed Greece to send migrants back to Turkey. In exchange, Turkey received six billion euros and free movement in Europe for its citizens. Despite UNHCR and Amnesty International’s (#stopthedeal) discontent with the legality of the deal and the Greek islands’ infrastructure capacity to address asylum seekers, the arrivals from Greece diminished significantly. Still it remains unclear if the waves of migrants will travel on different routes.

Latest series of agreements will not solve the migrant crisis

The European Union will negotiate a series of bilateral agreements with third countries, starting with Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. The financial distribution will take into consideration these countries’ ability to reduce the flux of migrants, seal the borders and offer protection to the refugees.

The of “New Migration Partnership Framework” implements a carrot and stick system, throws the hot potato into the lap of third countries, will probably prove to be as inefficient as previous attempts, opens EU to blackmail, and even worse, tends to jeopardize the well-being of the refugees caught in the middle. The countries which refuse to take an active part will be subject to cuts in aids and funds from the EU.

Turkey, due to a series of factors, ranging from its membership in NATO to its interest in the EU and democratic tradition, is an exception. Few of these third countries will be capable to mobilizing an efficient approach or can guarantee that funds will not be syphoned by internal corruption.

Repeating past mistakes?

A sad example from the past comes from the Gaddafi ruled Libya. In 2004, Colonel Gaddafi became a European partner and beneficiary of EU funds, with an active role of protecting the European Mediterranean border. No other country benefited more than Italy, but in a notorious visit in 2010, Gaddafi went so far as to blackmail then-Premier Berlusconi, asking for 5 billion euros in exchange for keeping Europe from becoming “black”. However, the benefits to the EU came at great human rights costs, to which the EU knowingly looked away. Libya did not sign the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, had no internal mechanism to address asylum seekers, and the detention of the migrants was being done in inhumane conditions as per Amnesty International reports.

In effect, following the EU-Turkey agreement in March, Niger, a major transit country asked for 1 billion euros for combating clandestine migration. Niger is one of the least developed in the world and has notoriously been targeted by Boko Haram, the Nigerian based extremist group and a faction of Al Qaeda in Maghreb. Also, Kenya announced the shutdown of the Dadaab Refugee Camp, the largest in the world, home to more than 300,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia and South Sudan, due to the escalating influence of Somali Islamist groups.

The news came after a January EU decree giving 77 million euros in aid to be divided between Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia and a previous 79 million euro aid (El Niño related) to Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. Eritrea and Sudan are currently facing sanctions and embargos for human rights abuses while Ethiopia and Eritrea are continuing their territorial disputes.

Last but not least, Mali, a front runner of poverty and corruption, is also incapable taking any viable steps to address migration; any aid and funds received will probably go towards subsidizing the inefficient government and effectively sponsoring the ongoing corruption there. Meanwhile, the potential reallocation of any funds these countries might receive poses security risks for the whole world.

Future outlook

The European Union should have learned by now that throwing money at these African and Middle Eastern countries while making the refugees exclusively their problem cannot possibly work. It doesn’t guarantee the transparent and targeted spending with respect to human rights. It also doesn’t guarantee that the funds will not end up to support the very factors that have caused migration: conflict, terrorism, corruption, poverty and inequality.

Categories: Europe, Security

About Author

Alina Harastasanu

Alina Harastasanu works as a business analyst and has over 7 years experience in consulting and international business. She holds a B.A. in Political Sciences from the University of Bucharest, a M.A. in Geopolitics and Global Security from University of Rome “La Sapienza” and an MBA degree focused on International Business and Strategy from The Ohio State University.