Fighting fear with logic

Written by Miriam Dalli on 25 October 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

The EU needs a structured approach to dealing with the challenge of mass migration, argues Miriam Dalli.

Photo Credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


As long as conflicts remain in the world, people will continue to migrate. Wars, conflicts, famine, extreme poverty and climate change are all contributing to mass movement of people.

I come from Malta, an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. We are keenly aware of the intricacies of migration. Malta registers amongst the highest figures for asylum applications per capita.

Over the summer - and we continue until today - Malta took the lead in successfully uniting a number of EU member states willing to offer safety to migrants stranded on boats when others turned them away. My country went beyond its legal obligations because we recognise that this is a challenge that needs to be addressed, not ignored.

What the Maltese government is doing demonstrates that solidarity works. It also shows that solidarity should be a guiding principle for the European Union as a whole, not simply for a few member states.

Confidence in the once-coveted promise of shared responsibility and solidarity has taken a hit. The Dublin Regulation is a clear example of this. The European Council concluded that a consensus was needed, and that such a consensus was to be based on a balance of responsibility and solidarity.

Yet, we continue to see how the bilateral discussions held with member states show that, in reality, no solution has been reached. This also emerged from the Justice and Home Affairs Council that took place on 12 October.

There is no silver bullet; however, there can be different solutions if world leaders agree to them; if they agree that irregular migration needs to be addressed in unity.

“Policies need to strike a balance between providing protection to those people at risk, while allowing legal channels for economic migrants and controlling the number of people a country can host”

Unfortunately, for far too long, different governments across the EU addressed the issue haphazardly, acting only when crises hit and with individual responses.

Short-term goals obscured what should have been an honest reply, backed by long-term solutions. However, the reality is that the more that member states fail to act, the greater citizens’ frustration will become, and the more criminals will profit from smuggling human beings.

For front-line member states such as Malta, Italy, Greece and Spain, mass migration is a challenge that they cannot - and should not - handle on their own.

Being front-line does not mean carrying all the obligations and responsibilities. This is a global challenge that requires a global solution. The EU needs to invest in a combination of solutions that will actually work.

We need to stop the illegal alternatives taking over from the legal solutions we should have in place. We are reliving a period when xenophobia, racism and extremism are on the rise.

I believe that one of the main issues is a lack of decisive action to properly address the migration issue. Many governments have skirted the issue, coming up with responses that try to address the problem at hand and hoping it would eventually die down.

This is not the way forward. Instead of addressing the issue and communicating with their citizens, politicians closed ranks. This lack of courage and absence of decisive action gave populist parties the opportunity to wedge themselves in.

“For far too long we have let this area be regulated through ad hoc measures. It is now time to support solutions that replace irregular and haphazard flows with well-managed movement”

Why not explain clearly that, in ageing societies, greater human resources are required? That where you have growing economies, you need more workers?

Policies need to strike a balance between providing protection to those people at risk, while allowing legal channels for economic migrants and controlling the number of people a country can host.

Yet member states have objected to investing in the required legal migration. Member states taking individual solutions to address a problem that is cross-border make it increasingly hard to fight the rise of populism.

The Asylum and Migration Fund is intended to support member state efforts in the areas of asylum, legal migration and external borders, returns and countering irregular migration.

The European Commission allocated €10.4bn for this Fund. As the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the Asylum and Migration Fund, I want to ensure that the allocation of these funds increases solidarity among Member States, allowing for dignified returns and providing a pragmatic approach to granting international protection.

I believe that strong and effective measures are required. The allocation of funds should be flexible enough to address realities on the ground, recognising that these differ from one Member State to another.

This Fund is a tool to create an EU migration policy that is robust, realistic and fair for all, while making sure that EU countries fulfill their obligations towards people in need of international protection.

At the same time, it should allow third country nationals a dignified return. For far too long we have let this area be regulated through ad hoc measures. It is now time to support solutions that replace irregular and haphazard flows with well-managed movement.

About the author

Miriam Dalli (S&D, MT) is Parliament’s rapporteur for the Asylum and Migration Fund 2021–2027

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