A step in the right direction – the Commission’s plan on migration

By on July 14, 2016

In the same month a significant number of British citizens thought migration to be a key argument in voting to leave the European Union (EU), the European Commission has presented further details on its plan on how to cope with irregular migration to Europe.

Over the last few years, the issue of migration has become particularly urgent, seizing the top of the European policy agenda. With the everlasting Syrian war, oppression, instability, unemployment, a demographic explosion and the imposed effects of climate change, more and more people in the Middle East and Africa grab the opportunity to migrate to Europe. As a result of growing numbers of migrants, the humanitarian situation along the migration routes became increasingly desperate – not only in the Mediterranean but in the Sahara, Lebanon, Turkey and the Balkans as well.

Simultaneously, it has been undeniably acknowledged in large parts of Europe that popular support for immigration is fading. Right wing parties all over the continent have been in the lift largely due to anti-immigration rhetoric. In contrast to the cosmopolitan elites, large parts of the population do not appreciate the added value of globalization and indeed oppose it. While rhetoric has been vile, simplistic, often demonizing and sometimes even dangerous, one cannot deny that the question of the current migration flows requires to be addressed.

The Commission’s plan consist of stepping up engagement with countries of origin and transit through a mix of positive and negative incentives in order to increase the rates of return and reintegration. The Commission also foresees to develop legal pathways to Europe and greater humanitarian reception capacities closer to the places of origin. Additionally and on the long term, the Commission earmarked a budget to help third countries in addressing the root causes of irregular migration.

Several humanitarian organizations have raised objections against the Commission plan, believing that pressuring countries in helping Europe to manage migration is against European values. It is often difficult for the countries in the region to provide the level of safety required for refugees and, as the organizations claim, Europe has still enough capacity.

The Commission points out that the plan is specifically aimed at the flows of migrants not eligible to the status of refugee according to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention; migrants that often end up in illegality with little prospects. At the same time, the plan anticipates to create legal routes inducing people to refrain from undertaking dangerous journeys and using the services of smugglers.

However discomforting and complicated the question of irregular migration may be, the Commission is right in trying to address it. By looking ahead and taking into account the factors causing migration, one can draw the conclusion that the flows towards Europe will only increase further.

Demographic forecasts show that Northern Africa, with its 220 million inhabitants in 2015, will expand to 290 million in 2030 and 390 million in 2050. Iraq will grow from 37 million (2015) to 53 (2030) and 77 in 2050. With food, water and energy crises already occasionally erupting and long term stability being threatened by unemployment, climate change, political incompetence and religious fanaticism, the increased demands generated by population pressure may become impossible to indulge. The demographic statistics for Sub-Saharan Africa are neither very reassuring with a population growing from 950 million (2015) to 1,370 million in 2030 and over 2 billion in 2050. Nigeria, that now accommodates 180 million, will increase to almost 400 million in 2050, while the Democratic Republic of Congo will grow from 73 (2015) to almost 200 million inhabitants (2050). Assuring a sustainable livelihood for all those people will prove an enormous challenge.

Times are changing and developments become increasingly global. Upholding European values does not simply mean accommodating the effects of globalization, but rather trying to anticipate the causes that indeed produce consequences that violate those European values. A greater EU engagement with countries in the Middle East and Africa is therefore inevitable, not only to control migration flows towards Europe, but also to help those countries in managing the rapid population growth by stimulating family planning (including discouragement of child marriage), decelerating urbanization and acknowledging the negative aspects of brain-drain. This approach should be combined with a welcoming and accommodating policy towards refugees and those granted asylum, while Europe should not be hesitant in setting forth the benefits of controlled migration. Hence, the Commission’s plan is a step in the right direction.


Author: Emiel Van Den Toorn
Emiel has an academic background in human geography and Russian studies. He has fulfilled traineeships with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Council of Europe and the European Commission. During his academic and professional career Emiel has worked on energy policy, European Neighbourhood policy, Russian hybrid warfare and Russian identity. has an academic background in human geography and Russian studies. He has fulfilled traineeships with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Council of Europe and the European Commission. During his academic and professional career Emiel has worked on energy policy, European Neighbourhood policy, Russian hybrid warfare and Russian identity.
 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

two × 3 =

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. More Info | Close