One has to comment on the awful crisis in the Mediterranean, with hundreds now feared drown over the last few weeks. The people smugglers, who are almost certainly working with the Italian mafia, seem quite happy to trade people’s lives for millions in profits.
Of course if we were to follow the UKIP response, sending out gunboats to shoot migrants, that wouldn’t solve the problem it would just move it somewhere else (i.e. they’d start squeezing into cargo ships or the luggage compartments of aircraft, perhaps they’d start using makeshift subs like the drug cartels). Furthermore, by the time most of them are intercepted, they are stuck in a sinking ship or a dingy in the middle of the ocean, they can’t go back even if they wanted too. And what if they refuse to turn around (and many are that desperate they won’t turn), what then? And its hardly moral or fair to be sending them towards ISIS controlled parts of Libya.
Ultimately, its about supply and demand. Europe is doing well, compared to the rest of the world, there are jobs here. On the other hand, the numerous wars ongoing, notably in Syria and Libya, is driving many towards Europe. The economy’s of many African countries has been devastated by Western policies, corrupt governments in league with corporations as well as the increasing effects of climate change. In short, until something is done to reverse these factors, many will still try to risk these crossings.
This is exactly why the West made a huge mistake not taking a harder line on the Assad regime earlier in the crisis, just to placate Putin. And similarly the big society response to Libya has not worked out well.
Certainly not all those coming are refugee’s. Quite a few of them are the poor and the desperate lured by the bright lights and tales of the streets of Europe being paved with gold…although the traffickers often leave out the little details such as the high living costs and the fact that they’ll be saddled with a massive debt to pay off the traffickers (incidentally this debunks the UKIP myth that they come to claim benefits, most are here to work so they can send money home to their families).
There are certainly a number of things the EU should be doing in the short term. All aimed and producing a system that is both tough, but fair. Certainly a crack down on the people smugglers would be a good idea. However it must also target the parts of the network in Europe, in other words organised crime, as well as harsher penalties for bosses caught using illegal migrant labour. Fines to companies flouting immigration rules (often paying below the minimum wage) should be made sufficiently harsh that no company would risk it as well as criminal charges and actual jail time for the boss.
And where are they getting all these ships from? The smugglers have shown up with increasingly larger and larger ships. For quite some time environmentalists have been trying to raise the issue of how ships are disposed off. Rather than shipping companies paying the cost of dismantling a ship laden with toxic materials in the West, they instead sell them to some third party in the developing world. Who then renames the ship and runs it into a beach in India and dismantles it, often using poorly paid migrant labour where health and safety as well as environmental protections are non-existent. So it would seem the chickens are coming home to roost, and there is a need to bring in laws that require shipping firms to take cradle to grave responsibility for their ships, much like a car owner is required to pay for its safe disposal.
Also many migrants show up without passports. This is a deliberate tactic to make it harder for them to be send back. I would argue for a change in the rules in which any such individuals are automatically presumed to be economic migrants and not refugees and are send back as soon as possible (that process might take longer, but the point is they know if they show up without documents they will be sent back). While this might seem harsh, once word’s gets out, genuine refugee’s won’t risk jeopardising their asylum application by doing so.
Also I would argue that this is an EU wide problem. The rest of the EU needs too take in its share of these migrants and share the burden. Equally however, there should be a rigid rule that migrants whoo abscond from the country they are sent to while their application is being processed (as many do), should again be presumed to be economic migrants and put on the top of the deportations list.
Of course the obstacle to this will be politicians like Farage. Indeed he’ll no doubt argue this is another reason why the UK should leave the EU. Cameron seems to be toeing the UKIP line by refusing to take in any of these migrants, even though the ultimate destination for many is the UK. However, if the UK left the EU, then the rEU will have very little incentive to stop these migrants reaching Britain. I can envisage them organising free shuttle buses to the English Channel in the hope that they’ll abscond and become the UK’s problem. In essence what we’re seeing off Italy will be move to off Ramsgate.
But ultimately, what’s going to stem this human tide is cutting off the supply. i.e. tackling the many messes the West has inflicted on other parts of the world. Ultimately if Africa gets richer, less people will want to travel to the West. Take Ireland for example. Thanks to the EU Ireland went from a country whose principle export was people (mostly to Britain!) to being a net receiver of migrants.
In short, you could argue this is payback for colonialism. The West needs to realise there is a price to be paid for its actions. Failing to tackle climate change for example will, in the long term, mean more refugee’s. Similarly cutting overseas aid (as the Tories, Republican in the US or UKIP talk of doing) or failing to prosecute Western Corporations who engage in corrupt exploitative practices, will mean more refugees washing up on the shores of Europe. Long term this is the only way the flow of migrants will be turned off.