Sunday, 17 December 2017

MfD: EU must start returning migrants from sea to Africa

ČTK |
11 July 2017

Prague, July 10 (CTK) - The EU must start returning migrants from the sea straight to Africa, though the step will cost many billions of euros and it might even require EU military mission, Lubos Palata writes in Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) on Monday.

The EU-Turkey agreement from from 2016 has been effective. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees have started returning home. Only dozens of migrants reach Greece daily, and most of them are deported back to Turkey, Palata writes.

However, the present wave of migrants coming from Africa differs from the wave that Europe experienced two years ago. It has not been stirred by war conflicts, which set millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in motion, but it consists of economic migrants who seek an easier life in the wealthy EU, Palata writes.

A comforting piece of news is that this stream of migrants has been stable, without any sharp increase in the past three years, Palata writes.

Compared with Greece in 2015, Italy, which faces the African migrants now, is a well functioning, strong and relatively well organised state which has no problem to register all inflowing migrants, Palata writes.

A different question, however, is that Italy, together with the whole EU, needs a long-term solution to the problem in economic, political and security terms, he writes.

The solution is clear and there is no need to ponder on it lengthily. The boats with illegal migrants aboard must be denied entry into all EU seaports. The failure to observe the ban must be qualified as people-trafficking and treated accordingly, Palata writes.

The people who seek asylum in the EU but have no legal authorisation to enter it must apply for asylum in their respective homelands outside the EU, either at EU countries' embassies or special contact points established for this purpose, Palata writes.

Simply, Italy and the whole EU must start doing what Malta did in 2013, when it closed its ports to boats carrying refugees saved on their way across the sea. The step triggered a huge diplomatic scandal, but Malta insisted on the ban in order to prevent a migrant flood. At present, Malta is free of migrant-related problems, Palata writes.

The EU should defintely save the migrants and it should not let them drown due to their still poorer barges and rubber boats, which normal people would never embark. However, after being saved, they must be consistently taken back to their country of departure, i.e. Africa. They must be told that their migrant attempt has stripped them of the chance to acquire asylum, a measure which the EU-Turkey deal also provides for, Palata writes.

This rule should also apply to the ships of humanitarian organisations, whose operation along the Libyan coast has become counterproductive, resulting in a logistic support for people-smuggling gangs rather than saving human lives.

If these ships want to stay near the Libyan coast, they will have to take the saved migrants to Libyan or Tunisian ports, or hand them over to EU military and police vessels, which would escort them back to Africa, Palata writes.

If a humanitarian ship failed to observe the rules, it should be denied entry into EU ports or even face legal sanctions, he writes.

If the EU finds courage to take the above steps, it will face a wave of criticism and maybe also demonstrations, but there is really no other way to solve the problem, Palata writes.

For the plan to materialise, the EU must sign a deal with Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and other north African countries by the end of the year, he writes.

Of course, this is far from easy. Libya is a non-functioning state with more governments or leaders. Nevertheless, the EU must give so much money to those in power and warn them of so strong consequences, including the EU's possible military intervention, that they will accept and observe the deal, Palata writes.

Fortunately, the EU has the necessary money and forces. It only must stop waiting for another two or three years to see further developments, also because of the persisting danger that the catastrophic year 2015 may repeat, Palata writes.

Like in the case of the Balkans route, the EU must show to those in Africa, who are considering departure for Europe, that their plan is unpromising. The situation with the Africans is simpler because they are economic migrants who do not deserve any special regard, unlike those coming from Syria and Iraq, and that hundreds of thousands of refugees are not wandering across Europe now, unlike in 2015, Palata writes.

The EU must not postpone taking the above measures. Together with closing its coast border, it must seek ways to economically and otherwise help African countries so that people no longer feel the need to leave them. This would be the best solution of all, Palata concludes.

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