No to Fences — Yes to a Europe of Solidarity!

No to Fences — Yes to a Europe of Solidarity!

Feb 14, 2023, 3:10:08 PM UTC
Fortress Europe” is not the solution. ‘Fortress Europe’ is at the core of the problem”, says Volt.
The European Frontier // photo: Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

“Fortress Europe” is not the solution. ‘Fortress Europe’ is at the core of the problem”, says Volt. Allowing migration to be a positive force should be the aim of European policy on asylum and migration.

Another EU summit on migration, another bitter disappointment. Instead of addressing the causes of the collective political inability to establish a humane and fair migration policy, the EU lost itself in fruitless actionism, dancing embarrassingly to the tune of the European right-wing populists. In doing so, the EU put fundamental human rights aside in favor of holding on to a clearly dysfunctional migration system that, besides being deeply unjust to Southern EU members, fails to protect human dignity and the value of life.

The special EU summit on February 9th with its focus on fences, push-backs, and adherence to the Dublin regulation, under which asylum seekers must apply for asylum in the EU Member state of entry, was another step towards “Fortress Europe”. And while the EU stopped short of financing border installations directly, it pledged substantial funds for surveillance and border security “stuff”, meaning that EU funds may indirectly end up in costly and useless projects such as fortifying the Turkish-Bulgarian border with fences.

Fact is: walls do not stop migration. Fences will not stop migration either. Raising more obstacles to entry in the EU will only increase irregular migration along dangerous routes. A fence along the Bulgarian border would essentially result in people dying tragically in the Mediterranean Sea. As long as the root causes of migration — conflicts, wars, climate crisis, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes — prevail, people will flee their home countries to seek safety in the EU as is their right. Instead of more fences, we need to face the fact that migration towards the EU will be a reality for the foreseeable future.

The EU Commission, with its weak opposition to EU funds being used for fences, seems to think that the problem can be solved via deals with third countries, more drones and more money for Frontex (an agency that was found complicit with violations of fundamental rights & pushbacks). As such, the EU Commission’s stance is grossly insufficient as well, since it does neither address the underlying flaws of the current EU migration laws nor the reality that Member States refused to correctly implement it. Instead, national governments revert to national policies on handling migration, by carrying out push backs over the deplorable conditions in refugee camps to the horrifying death toll in the Mediterranean Sea. We need a joint European Asylum policy that deserves its name replacing the Dublin regulation.

The EU must become a union of solidarity, enforcing a minimum threshold of asylum seekers per member state based on member state population, demographics and economic characteristics. Introducing additional variables, such as how many people have been resettled and how many asylum applications have been processed can help incentivise Member States to resettle and process more applications, better. This will consequently end the current practice of leaving the Southern EU Member States alone with the challenges migration entails. Introducing distribution based on meaningful links (i.e. family, education, language and other ties) is key to a functioning humane migration system in the EU, guaranteeing fast and fair asylum processes across the EU in accordance with international legal obligations and common European values. Meaningful links should also be used as criteria for redistribution, and to determine in which Member State the application should be processed.

However, a fair distribution enforcing equal standards across the EU is only the start to a constructive approach to migration. Swift inclusion into European societies with easy access to labour markets, education, and political participation is the next challenge. Currently, asylum seekers are barred from working for months, while having to wait in overcrowded facilities for the often excruciatingly slow processing of their cases. For the mutual benefit of asylum seekers and our European societies, asylum seekers should have the right to start working from day one.

If the EU really becomes “Fortress Europe’’, it will become a colder, increasingly isolated and culturally, politically, and economically poorer place. It would essentially be less equipped to deal with the multitude of challenges that have already started to manifest — let it be the climate crisis or the aging of our societies. Instead of being the source of endless political crises, migration — acknowledging its complex human dimensions — can be the source of societal enrichment.

Allowing migration to be this positive force should be the aim of European policy on asylum and migration. Stopping pretending that border fences are of any use, acknowledging that the Dublin regulations are dysfunctional, and letting asylum seekers work from day one would be a start. “Fortress Europe” is not the solution. In contrast, “Fortress Europe” is at the core of the problem.