As another EU summit gets underway, Leïla Bodeux and Davide Gnes wonder what values Europeans are willing to give up in order to stop migration.
Leïla Bodeux and Davide Gnes are policy officers on asylum, migration and development at Caritas Europa.
As a new European Council meeting gets underway, European leaders remain obsessed with sealing European borders. In promoting cooperation on migration management and border control with countries of origin and transit, including those with authoritarian regimes and problematic track records on human rights, the EU is willing to trade core European values for the sake of short-term political gains.
If recent Council statements are to give us any indication of what is to come, Egypt is next in line and willing. The European Council President Donald Tusk triumphantly praised Egypt for having stopped migration to Europe and announced enhanced cooperation with the country, notably through an Arab League Summit in February 2019.
In fact, EU engagement with countries of origin and transit for the purpose of stopping migration is nothing new. Propositions to enhance cooperation on migration management and border control in order to prevent departures of irregular migrants and to re-admit those returned from Europe have for long been sugar-coated with promises of economic investment, trade cooperation or development aid.
Never mind, of course, that irregular migration is largely a response to the fact that reaching Europe through legal channels has been made virtually impossible.
The latest EU proposals on a “regional disembarkation mechanism” or “platforms” recycle old concepts aimed at externalising Member States’ responsibilities on asylum and border control to neighbouring countries.
Several EU countries even dream of creating Australian-style offshore processing centres outside of Europe, despite the fact that a comprehensive study by the European Commission in 2002 identified serious moral, political, humanitarian and legal obstacles to that idea.