In recent years, the European Union (EU) has reduced the number of foreigners arriving on its territory by up to 90 per cent, but the migration crisis of 2015 led it to modify its structures for controlling the flow of foreigners arriving at its borders.
In October 2015, the EU presidency activated the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) and in 2016 inaugurated the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) to crack down on this phenomenon, according to EU sources.
On 23 September 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, proposed a new control mechanism: the Pact on Migration and Asylum, aimed at dealing with a quota system for distributing immigrants, which is always breached. The inflow of foreigners has directions: the central Mediterranean route, which includes Italy, the eastern one, with Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria, the western Mediterranean: Spain, with the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, and from West Africa to the Canary Islands.
In this current system of sharing out migrants arriving in Europe, it is Poland, Hungary and Austria that are the most openly opposed to receiving foreigners, as part of the so-called “compulsory solidarity” system implemented by the EU.
Millions of people long to reach developed European countries, but face a tortuous path that often leads to death, xenophobia and exclusion.
To find out more about the internal migration process in the EU and the external factors that influence it, we spoke with Leyla Carrillo, a researcher on global and European issues at Cuba’s International Policy Research Centre.
At the time, the events in Syria and the confrontation in Libya led to a massive influx of migrants into the European Union, which adopted regulations on its migration policy. What does this strategy consist of and how does this ‘distribution’ of foreigners behave statistically?
The massive flow of migrants has accelerated since NATO’s invasion of Libya, and the flow is steady into Europe as conflicts in the region multiply.
Events in Syria have overwhelmed Europe’s capacity to receive displaced persons, exacerbated by other internal conflicts, climate disasters and the proliferation of terrorist groups on the west coast and in other North African countries.
Despite repeated efforts to reconcile a common position, the EU was unable to agree on a single method of reception, because three differentiated positions persist, responding to heterogeneous interests that are also dissimilar between the more developed countries of northern and central Europe; those of the Mediterranean; and those of the Balkans or ex-socialist countries.
Several EU countries have for years pursued policies of tolerance towards immigrants that elements on the right in the region consider to have failed. What is the current state of this policy?
Immigration into Europe supplied part of the labour force of those who died during the First and Second World Wars. At that time, the largest sending countries were Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.
With the demise of European socialism, immigration from the former socialist states multiplied, and with the belligerence in the Middle East and the exacerbation of terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, people began to arrive from all the countries affected by the conflicts.
From 2006 onwards, the Dublin Convention, the Migration and Asylum Pact and the Return Directive regulated the selection of those who would be admitted, taking into account their training and education, establishing a functionalist migration criterion.
France, Germany and Spain exercised greater tolerance, if one takes into account the number of those admitted in their respective countries.
Then, in the case of Germany, the right wing turned the rejection of migrants into an electoral party platform, and racism and xenophobia increased regionally. The result that tolerance ceased is evident, and only with some honourable exceptions.
On the issue of migration, the European Union establishes common policies, which are often resisted by some states in the bloc. What role do immigrants now play in the labour market?
If we take into account the actions that promote the deportation of those who arrive on European territory, it is difficult to determine who perishes in the attempt, who is taken in by each country (awaiting refuge and work) and who is in transit across the 27 States.
Three areas of immigration in Europe are visible: 1) the countries where most migrants disembark are Spain, Italy, Malta and Greece. 2) The majority of migrants move by land from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. 3) Their “promised dream” was to settle in France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
In this context, Mediterranean countries are asking for EU subsidies to cover the maintenance, temporary shelter and other details of those arriving on their territory.
The issue of immigration in Europe is closely linked to Turkey, with which the EU has an agreement to resolve the migrant problem, as it hosts millions of refugees.
The EU has negotiated “aid packages” with transmigrant countries (those that are not the final destination of those who embark on a journey, but use it as a transit to their goal).
The most committed and subsidised are Morocco, Libya and Turkey. The latter has for decades aspired to join the EU and the “package” agreed initially amounted to 3 million euros, rising to a tentative figure of 6 million.
In this context, the refugees came from Greece, by sea and from Syria. Recent disagreements between the Turkish government and the US and several EU member states undermined compliance with the agreement.
Some experts have been quick to claim that the Western debacle in Afghanistan, both political and military, could cause a new uncontrolled flow of refugees from that country to Europe. What is your opinion on this?
This impact is not ruled out and EU officials expect Afghans, Pakistanis and others linked to the conflict to arrive on the European continent. They are now proposing to “negotiate” with the Taliban to avoid a debacle. Given the distance between the two regions, this is likely to have a much greater impact on bordering countries than on EU countries.