In the framework of Austria’s EU Presidency, 250 parliamentarians met for an Interparliamentary conference in Vienna discussing Security, Migration and External Borders. Melita H. Sunjic presented 7 Theses for regularizing migration. Closing borders was not one of them.
7 Minutes – 7 Theses
Vienna, 11 October 2018
A brief remark about myself first: In the past years I have studied the narratives and the communication of refuges and migrants. Why do they come? What motivates them? What are their sources of information? What do they know about Europe prior to departure and what do they find in reality? I am researching the personal and individual dimension of migration. Hence, I am not only discussing about refugees and migrants as most of you do in your various parliaments, but I discuss with them.
I am told I have only seven minutes to deal with migration, one of the planet’s most complex topics. This, of course I cannot do. Therefore, I will put seven forward 7 theses, even provoke you instigate your search for adequately complex solutions. No politician is more dangerous in this emotionalized debate than he who offers simple solutions.
Thesis 1: Border closure as a central tool of migration management does not reduce migratory pressure but increases it
Misguided water metaphors are often used in the migration debate. One speaks of waves, streams and floods. For once, I also want to use one of these comparisons. When water is flowing towards a house, dams will not suffice at the only regulation tool because pressure will only increase. You need to find out why the water is coming and how to steer it. This is not very different from the influx of refugees and migrants. Why are they coming and what can be done to regulate migration?
Thesis 2: The closer migrants are to Europe the more risks they are prepared to take getting there.
People who have made it all the way to the shores of the Mediterranean are like marathon runners who see the finishing line. They have given it all go get her.
They are heavily in debt or have sold all their belongings. They have suffered fear, hunger and thirst. Many have been tortured and sexually abused, have been forced to ransom money to various armed groups, may even have been enslaved and witnessed killings and deaths. The family at home has made great sacrifices and now expects compensation. These people have only two options: to reach their destination or die. Awareness raising on the dangers of irregular migration must therefore begin much earlier in order to reduce migration pressure and to cut out the smugglers.
Thesis 3: Europe needs two distinct systems managing economic migration and refugees.
The European Asylum System is so overwhelmed because there are no separate entry mechanisms for economic migrants and those seeking protection. Thus, both groups are trying to legalize their stay through asylum procedures. Europe, unlike North America or Australia, hardly has any regular immigration procedures for labour migrants.
The asylum system has been specifically designed to grant protection to those who flee war and persecution. It is being eroded by this improper use but could be relieved very quickly by extracting labour migration and regularising it in a separate pathway. By that one can respond to the needs of Eurpean economy and admit workforce with the requisite skills wher as as long as they are needed.
Take the example of African migration: Millions of young Africans used to work in Libya for a few years, making money, learning and finally returning home. This can work in Europe as well, for mutual benefit.
Thesis 4: Taking properly care of refugees in countries of first asylum is less expensive for Europe and safer for everyone.
The war in Syria broke out in 2011. Only after four years did refugees come to Europe in greater numbers. This was foreseeable, because the countries of first asylum were left alone with their burden. Donor countries contributed only 30% of the resources needed to meet the basic needs of refugees. Assistance was only available for the most vulnerable. So those who still had strength, came to Europe.
Did we learn the lesson? No! Only yesterday I came back from Northern Iraq where I visited camos of Syrian Kurds close to Sulaymaniyah. There, humanitarian aid is currently being reduced due to of lack of funding. I also took the time to interview refugees about their plans for the future. And guess what? Many of them think about secondary migration to Europe.
Thesis 5: Better speed and quality of asylum and quick returns of those in need of protection are more humane can source irregular migration.
The quality and quantity of asylum authorities need to be strengthened. Asylum procedures take far too long. So asylum seekers in Europe often stay in a kind of limbo for several years. They do not know whether they should integrate or anticipate deportation. This creates social problems and costs for the host society and is inhumane for those affected. Also, it is more expensive than fair and efficient asylum procedures.
Those who are in need of protection should be granted asylum ass soon as possible so they can start their integration process. Rejected asylum seekers should be returned home quickly. This will send a message to fellow countrymen pondering to leave: Maybe what smugglers keep promising is not true after all and irregular migration is not the way to go.
Thesis 6: Stop the smuggling industry. You already have all the necessary information.
Here and now, I can give you the names and telephone numbers of smugglers, the latest news on departure times, routes, prices. I can even tell you in which of your consulates corrupt officials are selling Schengen visas. This is all being run by international crime syndicates. In most cases, smugglers are paid through electronic transfers which can be detected. The old police rule applies: Follow the money.
All this informationis openly available on Social Media. EASO publishes a report every week. Originally, I set up this monitoring for UNHCR myself two years ago and it was later transferred to EASO. If you want to stop the smuggling, follow the money and go after the bosses of those cagtels not just after the small fish you can catch in Europe.
Thesis 7: Borders should be safe, not sealed against those in need of protection, or Europe will lose its soul.
Border control is a right of every sovereign state and it is a security requirement. No question about that.Migration needs to be managed, but there is no reason for hysteria. Europe is not being “flooded”. Only very few top host countries have up to 5,200 refugees and asylum seekers per 1 million inhabitants. This is half a percent. Most EU Member States have much less. By comparison, Jordan has nearly 180,000 refugees per one million citizens. Europe is the cradle of human rights and a continent that has always taken pride in being a safe haven to the those fleeing persecution. That is part of her political DNA. (I myself am the child of a refugee family who got a second chance in Austria, and I do not think that I pose an imminent threat to the integrity of this country.)
Today, some claim that the only way to safeguard and preserve the character of Europe is to surround the continent with barbed wire and keep out those whose lives are in danger. The opposite is true: Europe, with its formative values and traditions, is being destroyed and replaced by a system incompatible with democracy and humanity.
Dear Members of Parliament, please do not allow Europe to lose its soul over the migration issue!