The irregular influx of people into the EU region is an emotive issue. Many countries have experienced the revival of far-right sentiments while anti-immigration politicians are coming out on top in several electoral contests. The issue has been compounded due to lack of a comprehensive policy framework to deal with the problem.
Leaders were bitterly divided when they discussed the issue at the latest EU summit. Though, they agreed on an accord on June 29 after more than nine hours of tedious talks on immigration. What they decided may not be the best to tackle the arrival of unwanted guests on European shores but it is still an achievement for the group.
The core of the agreement is on how to provide support to Italy and other member states which are often the first to receive the immigrants. The members came up with the idea of disembarkation platforms and controlled centers to process the individual cases on merit.
But it is short on details and will make the implementation of the accord quite difficult. There is no mention of where disembarkation platforms will be set up. Also, the accord is silent about where the genuine asylum seekers will be relocated from the controlled centers.
The members are free to pick and choose as the agreement is based on the concept of voluntary action. There is no essential quota or financial obligations to help the immigrants.
The general idea is to discourage the business models of immigration that revolve around international gangs of traffickers who lure in people from poor and war-torn countries to embark on dangerous voyages after making hefty payments.
The good part is that the EU nations still want to accommodate genuine asylum seekers whose lives are at risk due to multiple factors. But at the same time there is a strong desire to plug in loopholes in the system so that illegal immigrants should be stopped.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people around the world who are trying to fish out of troubled waters, in this case by exploiting the humanitarian crises in different countries. Such elements not only deprive the genuine refugees of being able to settle abroad in safety but also create problems for the host nations.
The EU agreed that control of the union's borders is important but they cannot be tightened beyond a certain limit. Even the tough regulations will not completely stop the illegal influx.
The deal rightly acknowledges that "tackling the migration problem at its core requires a partnership with Africa aiming at a substantial socio-economic transformation of the African continent."
The immigrants go to the EU in search of a better and peaceful economic and social life, which in most cases, is not available in their native countries. Places like Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and several African nations have failed to maintain peace and ensure economic prosperity.
The EU should focus on ensuring peaceful development in the countries that have high levels of people leaving. The measures taken by the international community have slightly improved the situation as the magnitude of irregular arrivals in the EU has dwindled – compared with the October 2015, it is 96 percent down by May this year.
The migration crisis mirrors the EU's "delayed-political-reaction to problems syndrome." For example, illegal arrivals peaked in 2015 to more than 1 million. Now the numbers have plummeted considerably but the EU leaders are still fighting how to seal the borders.
For many observers, the latest commotion over immigration is mostly due to internal politics. Migration has seemingly become voters' number one concern, as witnessed by the surveys and election results in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Hungary.
The actual situation is that the number of migrants to Europe has been going down steadily. According to IOM data, 52,240 migrants or refugees arrived in Europe as of June 20 this year, compared with 186,768 in 2017 and 390,432 in 2016.
The latest agreement should be seen in this context. That is why it is being said that it may not resolve anything related to the issue but the failure to have the accord would have shown a vulnerability of the union in the face of a daunting challenge.
Since the accord is ambiguous, the politicians can tell their voters back home that they have shown solidarity to stop illegal arrivals. The shortcomings in the agreements will be addressed at the next summit.
Sajjad Malik is a columnist with www.fvelz.cn. For more information please visit:
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