Migration crisis update: mutual actions and solidarity needed as anti-migrant policies thrive

Visit by Dimitris Avramopoulos, Member of the EC, to Austria
Date: 14/09/2018. Location: Austria,Vienna. © European Union , 2018 Photo: Alex Halada

An EU summit is taking place today in Salzburg, Austria where the EU leaders will discuss about the immigration crisis in the region and Brexit deal negotiations. The Parliament’s request to the member states regarding Hungary’s breach of the EU founding values is creating turbulences to the unity and solidarity of the Old Continent.

The situation is getting worse as many countries with anti-migrant and populist governments are refusing to accept migrants creating a serious issue in the Mediterranean and in Europe as a whole where 74.501 refugees have already entered Europe by sea during this year.

Background

Immigration crisis is still plaguing the EU causing shocks in the European project. Despite the fact that the migratory flows have decreased during the last years, the figures show that there has been an change in the allocation of the refugees due to Italy’s anti-migrant policies. Spain is currently by far the leading destination this year with 32.272 arrivals while 20.343 migrants have entered Italy by sea. Italy’s arrivals are the lowest recorded by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, since 2014 as irregular migrant arrivals in Greece recently reached 20.961. Last year, Greece’s refugee arrivals were about one sixth those of Italy, while Spain’s were about one tenth. In total, the 74.501 migrant’s entries are reduced to a great extent in comparison to the 128.995 arrivals across the region through the same period last year and to the 298.663 in 2016.

Commission’s refugee plan

A “lasting solidarity” is mandatory according to the President Jean-Claude Juncker in order to provide permanent solution to the migration crisis. The Commission is proposing further reforms which could lead to the decrease of the refugee flows in the bloc. First of all, the European Border and Coast Guard have to be strengthened by increasing its staff to 10.000 by 2020. Additional powers to the staff members of the agency together with a new borders procedure are included in the policies. The latter means that persons, whose asylum applications have been rejected, will be channelled directly towards a simplified return procedure, with no period for voluntary departure ensuring that return decisions can be quickly adopted and fully enforced at the border.

Orbán to challenge EU migration policies

Hungary has been accused by the European Parliament last week to have violated values such as the respect for democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights. As a result and with 448 votes to 197, with 48 abstentions, the EP’s request for inspection regarding the aforementioned violation was approved.  The member states will have to determine now whether the EU values are infringed.

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán continued the same strategy last Monday and accused Brussels of taking control of national borders. More specifically, Viktor Orban said that: “It’s not right if they want to take the right of border protection away from us and if Brussels wants to direct the defense of Hungary’s borders. We will not give up our right to defend a border, no-one can take an iota of that away from us”.

EU leaders decide on migration

Another EU summit where migration crisis will play a crucial role is about to begin. A few days ago, Sebastian Kurz met Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron as Austria has taken over Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the second half of the year. During the meeting between the Austrian and German Chancellors it was announced that the two leaders will focus on fighting against irregular migration by collaborating with African countries and promote EC’s plans. It seems quite surprising though as the Austrian Chancellor has been against the quota migration system in Europe.

Last Monday, Sebastian Kurz discussed with French President in Paris about the upcoming summit topics and underlined the necessity to respect the EU values and show solidarity. Particularly, the Austrian Chancellor stated: “European external borders must be secured and frontline countries like Greece and Italy need our support.” What is more, Emmanuel Macron commented that “the EU can advance on the migration issue by respecting our values” clearly referring to Hungary.

Looking for actions and solidarity

The president of the European Council requested from the EU heads of states to change the current picture and focus on a mutual policy in order to tackle migration crisis. Donald Tusk mentioned: “I am hoping that in Salzburg we will be able to put an end to the mutual resentment and return to a constructive approach”.

However, many countries are against the EC proposals to have their borders controlled by Frontex which will most likely divide them in the EU summit.

All in all, everyone awaits for common grounds and solutions to the EU migration policy but it is highly unlikely to occur the moment that populism and anti-refugee spirit has spread out and “polluted” most of the decision makers.

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