For a European pact alongside migrants

For a European pact alongside migrants

Dice refugees leaving the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 28.

© Panagiotis Balaskas
Dice refugees leaving the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 28.

Because the “New Pact for Migration and Asylum” proposed by the European Commission offers no prospect of ending illegal immigration, another pact must be made with and for migrants, and not their migrants. costs.

Tribune. The “New Pact for Migration and Asylum” proposed by the European Commission remains based on the imperative to prevent most migrants from the South from accessing European territory. A new pact with migrants is essential.

The fire at Moria camp in early September prompted the European Commission to react by presenting its “New Pact for Immigration and Asylum”, September 23, 2020. Described as “A new start for migration in Europe”, the pact does not offer any prospect for putting an end to the mobility conflict which underlies the crisis in European migration policies.

This Commission pact against migrants promises to reduce the number of migrants arriving in Europe by continuing to place externalized chains of control throughout the migrants’ trajectory. Those who manage to reach the continent will be quickly sorted in border detention facilities. The few who manage to place their lives within the framework of increasingly restrictive asylum laws will be relocated to the member states according to a distribution mechanism based on the size of the population and the wealth of the countries. The majority of rejected asylum seekers will be referred to member states that refuse relocation to take care of their deportations – what the Commission calls “Flexible solidarity”.

The Commission reached an agreement between the member states without consulting the migrants – and at their expense. Most of the tools proposed by the Pact are nothing new, and have never succeeded in putting a lasting end to illegal immigration. On the contrary, they have resulted in the deaths of more than 40,000 migrants at the borders of Europe since the end of the 1980s, and created a large precarious population in the heart of the EU. How would these same measures produce different results today? Migrants will continue to arrive, many will remain stranded in frontline states, or in other EU states pending deportation. The Pact (if accepted) will result in the perpetuation and generalization of the system of hotspots. “No more Moria”: the rhetoric of the Commission would like to persuade us, but the ruins of Moria may well represent the future of EU migration policy. An entirely different approach to migration is needed.

Towards a pact with migrants

Let us imagine that the European Commission wanted and could reorient its migration policy in order to defuse and transform the mobility conflict: what could a pact with migrants look like? It should start from the social reality of migration, offer it a legal framework to deploy and involve migrants in defining policies that affect them. It should transform the processes that produce forced migration and the EU’s closure policy. Concretely, it should contain the following four essential measures.

1. Commitment to global justice and conflict prevention The EU’s pact with migrants will end all European political and economic relations – from support for dictatorships to arms exports, from trade agreements to carbon emissions – which contribute to crises leading to massive displacement. A real commitment to global justice and conflict prevention is essential if Europe wishes to limit the factors that lead too many people on the paths of exile, of which only a small part reaches European shores .

2. Tackling the “root causes” of European racism The pact will propose bold policies to tackle the EU’s colonial past and present and the racial imaginaries they founded; he will affirm a positive vision of living together in diverse societies; and will establish in Europe a more inclusive and fairer economic system, which will defuse the resentment of European populations, perversely channeled against migrants and people of color.

3. Institute universal freedom of movement The pact will provide all migrants with legal avenues of access and stay in Europe. Immediate consequence of the establishment of the right to international mobility (1), migrants will no longer have to resort to smugglers, will no longer risk their lives crossing the sea – and will therefore no longer need to be rescued. No longer being controlled by military means, migration will appear as a normal process and will no longer generate fear. The budget of Frontex, the European agency for border guards and coast guards, will be cut. A European asylum system will continue to provide protection and support to those in need. The elders hotspots and detention centers will serve as reception ministries, which will register migrants and redirect them to a location of their choice. Registration will thus be the first step towards European citizenship, transformed into a real post-national institution.

4. Democratize borders This pact, the result of a broad consultation with migrants, the organizations that support them and the Southern States, will propose, according to Etienne Balibar, to democratize borders by instituting “Multilateral and negotiated control of their operation” involving all stakeholders, including migrants (2).

If this political orientation seems to us the only one capable of transforming the current mobility conflict, we are well aware that it is not on the agenda of neoliberal and nationalist Europe. The current mobility conflict is therefore set to continue. Utopian though it may be, our pact can nonetheless inspire movements of solidarity with migrants. Freedom of movement is not, or not only, a distant utopia: it is also a right and a freedom that illegal migrants seize on a daily basis, which can guide us in our practices of protest and support. Alongside the humanitarian and humanitarian appeals for reception, which are certainly important, we must place migrations and borders in a broader political and economic context – that of the past and present of the empire (3). By highlighting the (un) justice that is at stake, new alliances between migrant solidarity movements and other progressive movements can be forged.

In the coming months, the EU pact against migration will be discussed before the European Parliament and the Council. Without having any illusions about the difficulty of the fight and its result, we must seize this opportunity to affirm that another Europe, of openness and solidarity, and another world are possible, and to start lay the foundations from below.

The French version of the text was translated by Isabelle Saint-Saëns, October 2020. The English and more elaborate version of this article was published in two parts on Open Democracy.

(1) Antoine Pécoud and Paul de Guchteneire. 2006. International Migration, Border Controls and Human Rights : Assessing the Relevance of a Right to Mobility, Journal of Borderlands Studies, flight. 21, No. 1, p. 75-76.

(2) Etienne Balibar, 2001 We, citizens of Europe? The borders, the state, the people, La Découverte coll. Free notebooks

(3) Male Disease. 2019, The Postcolonial Case for Rethinking Borders. Dissent 66.3: pp.27-32.

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