Our research challenges some of the assumptions that have underpinned political debates and policy developments on migration across the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2015, policy responses to migration across the Mediterranean were late, chaotic and uncoordinated. Although the numbers of people arriving were larger than anything seen previously, they were small when compared to patterns of displacement elsewhere, such as in countries neighbouring Syria (Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan), each with considerably inferior relative wealth compared to that of the EU’s 28 Member States.
Eventually, and following agreements between European governments and leaders in Turkey, Libya and other countries, the number of arrivals has fallen firstly on the Eastern and more recently the Central Mediterranean route. But the focus on preventing movement has done relatively little to address the reasons why people left their homes in the first place or would move on from other places where they had initially tried to settle.
Our research has shown that addressing these factors requires a nuanced and long-term approach to migration policymaking.
Click the headings for more information on particular policy areas.Address the drivers of migration
EU policies on migration management, international development, foreign affairs and trade often drive and shape patterns of migration.
EU institutions and Member States need to think carefully about their role in creating and fuelling conflict and human rights abuse in some of the countries from which refugees flee.
More significant and timely assistance and investment in countries from which people flee can ensure that they do not feel the only alternative is to set out on lengthy, dangerous journeys over land and sea.
Provide access to protection
The EU, its institutions, and Member States are legally obliged to treat refugees and migrants in accordance with international and community laws. This includes the right to seek asylum. The need for protection cannot be determined by nationality alone.
EU countries can use a range of policy tools to facilitate access to protection, such as the Temporary Protection Directive and other emergency forms of assistance, including humanitarian visas. This would avert the chaotic and desperate scenes with which the ‘migration crisis’ came to be associated.
Create safe and legal routes
Deterrence policies aimed at preventing people reaching Europe but without providing access to protection, resettlement or humanitarian assistance simply increases the extent of human suffering and may not, ultimately, reduce the scale of migration.
Increased border controls and restrictions on legal movement without addressing the causes of mobility strengthen the reliance of refugees and migrants on smugglers.
Refugees and migrants will be less reliant on irregular migration if there are other options. This could involve
expansion of resettlement programmes, humanitarian visas or temporary international protection schemes and family reunification.
Move beyond the politics of containment
Policies aimed at containing and preventing migration through agreements with countries of origin too often
fail to address the conflict, violence and human rights abuses that drive migration to Europe.
Migration cooperation with countries of origin should not trap people in abusive situations, prevent them from
accessing fair asylum procedures, or result in them being returned to places where they would be at risk of
violence and persecution.
The EU’s humanitarian assistance will fail to improve living conditions or prevent migration if it is instrumentalised for political purposes or sent to abusive governments.
Preventing or resolving conflict, challenging human rights abuse, and creating opportunities for employment
in countries and regions of origin are long-term strategies that are more likely to prevent a return to that
seen in the Mediterranean in 2015.
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