EU Migration Policy – back to the start

European Member States have reached a new deal on migration which does not address the core problems brought up by EU countries up until now and the topic remains a political weapon in many nations.

The umpteenth trigger

This time too, Italy played a big part in causing uproar among the EU 28. Recently, the newly elected populist government, a coalition between the 5 Star Movement and the League de facto led by the Minister of Interior, Matteo Salvini, decided to seal the country’s ports, theatrically refusing to welcome over 600 migrants who were brought to Valencia. Through this move, the country put at risk the lives of several individuals, among whom were children and pregnant women. Once again, Italy is failing to guarantee basic human rights it pledged to safeguard by signing several international treaties.

Perhaps, because it took 2 months to form a government, Italian politicians think that it’s still campaign period. Especially the leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, who keeps addressing the crowd offering simple solutions in his populist speeches. What might seem just in line with the newly-elected Minister of Interior’s view, is also a sketchy way to distract the attention from all the promises made during the electoral campaign, which are hard to keep now. Targeting a weak category such as migrants and adopting drastic solutions such as sealing the country’s ports, gives Salvini a more effective bridge to the voters, who are not yet thinking about the parties’ promises made before the elections.

The numbers

This is particularly evident when considering that the number of arrivals consistently decreased if compared to the previous 2 years. The number of migrants reaching Italy by sea is 83% lower than it was in 2017 and 79% lower than in 2016. The situation is depicted very differently because of the high degree of misinformation surrounding the topic. An example: 25% of the population thinks that foreigners in Italy make up for 24% of the population, while they actually account for only 8%.

Politicians, the media, and citizens often refer to irregular migrants without knowing what it takes to become a regular migrant in the country. Being irregular was even a crime according to Italian law. Many people complain about arrivals, claiming that considering the country’s economic situation, the state shouldn’t ‘waste’ money on taking care of foreigners. Few people seem to realize that migration would constitute a resource for ageing societies such as the Italian and other EU societies alike. By simplifying the process to apply for residence permits, the Italian government would encourage and allow migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to find a job and contribute to the country’s pension scheme, which is now under high pressure. And despite what Salvini says, the reason is not migrants at all. Today, the number of foreigners legally working in Italy is 2,4 million.

In good company

Unfortunately, Italy is not the only country which promotes a distorted view of this phenomenon. The Orbàn-style move showcased by Salvini shows how the Italian leader is bringing the country closer to Member States such as Hungary and Poland, where despite the low number of migrants, the media present the issue as if the country is being invaded. The Hungarian Parliament has recently approved an anti-immigrant law which allows the imprisonment of those assisting migrants.

Italy is also backed up by Germany, where Chancellor Angela Markel is being confronted with the need to accommodate the political needs of her coalition buddy: the Christian Social Union, which is pushing to reduce the number of refugees who are being relocated to the country. This is a point of friction with Salvini’s Italy, which is clearly more concerned by sharing the ‘burden’ of arrivals rather than by the movement of third country nationals within the EU

The new deal

On Friday June 29, after nine hours of intense negotiations, Member States have reached a compromise at the EU Council meeting and defined the details of a new migration deal, which aims at promoting shared responsibility. The deal defines a system which states that Member States can voluntarily set up centers in their territory, where arrivals will be processed. Individuals in actual need of protection will either stay in the country or be relocated to countries which will voluntarily sign up to host them, and those who don’t have the right to asylum, will be expelled. Although the deal has been praised by Member States, it will soon become clear that it doesn’t address the core problem surrounding the issue, because it allows Member States to participate on a voluntary basis. In addition, some countries have already attempted to set up facilities with the aim of speeding up the examination process, but most of them have bad records, because they detained migrants in very poor conditions.

Once again, Member States were not able to reach an effective solution and the issue needs to be addressed through a more structured policy, since the political interests of Member States keep causing the death of several individuals.

Author: Ljuba Ferrario

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