Five years ago, Italian and EU leaders stood in silence as they watched coffins pile up in a warehouse on the island of Lampedusa.
“Coffins of babies, coffins with the mother and the child that was born just at that moment. This is something that profoundly shocked me,” Jose Manuel Barroso, then EU commission president, said following his visit.
It was early October 2013, when some 373 people had drowned off Lampedusa’s coast in their efforts to seek help, asylum, and opportunities in Europe.
The European Commission then quickly announced big plans to curb the deaths.
Border surveillance would be stepped up, boats rescuing people would not face sanctions, regional protection, resettlement and legal ways to access Europe would be offered, and diplomatic channels stepped up with African countries.
A similar refrain would be repeated years later – but now with an increasing focus on shoring up borders and stopping people from reaching Europe.
EU leaders and heads of state are meeting in Brussels on Thursday (28 June) to discuss migration, as internal EU asylum reforms are broadly set aside.
The latest draft conclusions, seen by this website, speak of “effective control of the external borders” and “regional disembarkation platforms” outside the EU where asylum cases would be reviewed.
Jan Oberg comments
This article – which is a fine piece of public education – offers you the basic data on people trying to enter the EU over the last few years – and the very marked decrease in the number of those who come over the Mediterannean. The peak point was the latter half of 2015 when about 1,2 million sought asylum in Europe – having fled, it should be remembered, predominantly from countries ravaged by Western NATO/EU members’ military interventions.
The population of the EU is about 510 million – so 1,2 million in need of protection and support makes 0,2 per cent – only – of the EU comparatively wealthy population.
That the EU as an organisation has not been able to handle such a relative small problem is deeply embarrassing. The article’s headline, therefore, is spot on.
Let’s now compare with a couple of refugee handling examples that the West never talks about because it is not politically correct:
The “regime” in Syria and its “dictator” Bashar al-Assad who – according to the Western mainstream narrative since 2011 – allegedly takes pleasure in killing his own in the hundreds of thousands accepted to receive about 2 million Iraqis (in addition to the Palestinians who’ve lived in Syria for decades). Out of a population of about 24 million people in Syria, this makes 8,3%.
In Lebanon, 4,1 million people are Lebanese nationals, 0,5 million Palestinian refugees and 1 million Syrian refugees. In other words, 37% of the people living in today’s Lebanon are refugees.
Conclusion 1: Much poorer countries than the average EU country have carried much more heavy refugee burdens than the EU obviously was able to. Shown more humanity, you may say).
This is the more deplorable because most of those who came to Europe would return home as soon as they could if and when a minimum of security would be restored in their countries. Contrary to countries in the Middle East (see below), this would be a short-term and not a permanent problem.
Conclusion 2: Most of the asylum seekers/refugees who have come to the EU region have come because of warfare and its consequences. These wars have had elements of foreign intervention – bombings, special troops on the ground, sales of arms and ammunition, support to terrorism and civil-war like opposition groups, building of foreign bases, and – as in Iraq – direct occupation and mismanagement (by the U.S. and its coalition members).
Conclusion 3: Due to the EU countries complicity in causing the EU refugee policy crisis and mismanagement, one could argue from a moral perspective that European countries would have had a special obligation to open up to the innocent victims of their own interventionist policies. No EU country, with the exception of Germany that has not been an interventionist country, has shown any such moral conscience.
European governments bowed down to populist and xenophobic pressures.
The long-term consequences for the EU as a Union of this failure remains to be seen. But they will be nothing but negative, indeed perhaps destructive of the Union itself.
So, one could change the headline into: “Europe’s migration crisis is one of failed wars, mismanagement, and lack of ethics.”
* Photo UNHCR