Patrice Riemens on Sun, 24 May 2015 05:43:26 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Peter Sutherland: Europe has turned a tragedy into a needless

>From the Opinion page, Financial Times, Friday May 22, 2015

FT's web policies are now too convoluted to give a url. Go search
yourself! ;-)

May 21, 2015
Europe has made tragedy a political crisis
By Peter Sutherland

Europeans should help; not so long ago, they were the ones desperately
asking, says Peter Sutherland

Faced with a tragedy in the Mediterranean, the EU risks transforming it
into a self-inflicted political crisis that could divide the union.

After 900 people died on a single day, Europe was shocked into expanding
its maritime presence. The carnage slowed: more than 1,500 died in April;
just a few dozen in May. The European Commission then offered proposals to
impose greater order on the chaos of human flows into Europe. It broke the
crisis into three challenges: saving lives; protecting refugees; and
thwarting smugglers.

The first was addressed by permanently expanding the seaborne
search-and-rescue campaign. Member states did not want the moral taint of
having desperate refugees die on their watch.

The commission?s proposal for protecting asylum seekers after rescue was
equally commonsensical. Brussels said responsibility for processing asylum
applications and hosting refugees should be shared across all EU states.
Yet this set off a firestorm. At present, a handful of countries bear most
of the burden. Politicians in countries that benefit from the status quo
refused to support it. Estonia and Slovakia ? each of which would have to
take a few hundred refugees ? are resisting. One wonders what the eastern
European refugees embraced by the west during the cold war might think.

Others obfuscated, dubbing the commission proposal a ?migrant quota?,
blurring the line between migrants and refugees. This is fiction. The
commission has not suggested distributing economic migrants across the EU.
This is about asylum seekers, who enjoy safeguards under international
law.Economic migrants do not; the EU regularly returns them to their
countries of origin.

Reasonable people might disagree about the details of the plan. Its
so-called ?distribution key? relies on a formula that takes into account a
country?s population, economic output, unemployment rate, and how many
refugees and asylum seekers it has accepted since 2010. But reasonable
people would sit down to fine-tune it, not reject it outright. That only
makes a future compromise even more difficult.

The response to the commission?s plan to resettle refugees was equally
irresponsible. Resettlement involves taking refugees who have undergone
rigorous health and security screening, which can take two years, and
bringing them to host countries. This would save lives, by obviating the
need for at least some risky sea crossings. It would signal to Europeans
that an orderly system is in place. Twenty thousand people would be
resettled. Compare this to the 1m refugees shoehorned into tiny Lebanon,
with a total population of 4m, or to the 800,000 in Jordan, almost as
small. These countries are overwhelmed.

No one is calling on the EU to do the impossible. But surely 500m EU
citizens have enough generosity and resources to help at least a few
hundred thousand ? or even a few million ? people who have lost
everything. Not so long ago, Europeans themselves were desperately asking
for such help.

The third commission proposal targets smugglers. But even if the EU stops
all smugglers, an unlikely prospect, where would that leave the world?s
16.5m refugees? Europe will have cemented a reputation as being hostile to
foreigners, and it will leave angry partners throughout Africa and the
Middle East bearing almost the entire burden of the refugee crisis. These
are conditions that would only elevate the far right and its principles.

Most Europeans are neither mean-spirited nor racist. They do not want to
see families perishing in the seas. They want their governments to be in
control of who enters Europe, and how. European leaders can deliver this
while doing right by international law, and without undermining the
union?s economy and foreign relations.

The writer is UN Special Representative for International Migration

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: