In 2024, Europe to hunt for new partners to offload asylum seekers

3 months ago 43

Eight years aft the representation of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying facedown connected a formation successful Turkey shocked the world, pictures of asylum seekers’ lifeless bodies washed up connected the seashore of Italy’s Calabria portion successful February erstwhile again stirred planetary outrage.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen responded to the tragic shipwreck conscionable metres distant from the seashore of Steccato di Cutro by promising to “redouble our efforts”.

“Member states indispensable measurement guardant and find a solution. Now,” she said.

Yet arsenic 2024 begins, activists and experts told Al Jazeera that 2023 has seen Europe scope for ever much drastic solutions to curb NGO hunt and rescue operations and outsource its borderline absorption to different nations.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated astatine slightest 2,571 radical died this twelvemonth trying to transverse the Mediterranean – 1 of the deadliest years ever. Since 2014, the United Nations bureau has counted astatine slightest 28,320 men, women and children who mislaid their lives trying to scope Europe.

“What is caller is the popularity of the thought that you tin externalise asylum processing,” said Camille Le Coz, subordinate manager for Europe astatine the Migration Policy Institute. “That’s thing we’re apt going to spot much of moving guardant contempt shaky ineligible grounds.”

Externalising asylum

At slightest 264,371 asylum seekers entered Europe by vessel and onshore successful 2023, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – a 66 percent summation compared with the erstwhile twelvemonth and the highest fig since 2016. Six of each 10 among them landed connected Italian shores.


Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesperson for the IOM, said these numbers were a acold outcry from those recorded successful 2015 erstwhile much than a cardinal radical reached European shores via the sea.

“There is nary existent emergency,” Di Giacomo told Al Jazeera. “They are precise manageable figures, and much should beryllium done to springiness radical who get by oversea entree to a strategy of protection.”

Yet hardliners person sounded the alarm astir migration. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was accused successful December of adopting “toxic” rhetoric aft informing that migration would “overwhelm” European countries without steadfast action.

His comments came during a four-day governmental lawsuit successful Rome organised by far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, weeks aft his flagship bill designed to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda to process their claims was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court successful the United Kingdom.

Meloni, who besides governs connected a staunchly nationalist docket that focuses connected immigration, has warned that Italy would not go “Europe’s exile camp”.

Similarly to her British ally, Meloni had signed a woody to nonstop asylum seekers arriving successful Italy to different country. Albania had agreed to process their claims successful 2 facilities tally by Italian officials nether Italian jurisdiction. The five-year deal, announced successful November, was blocked by the Balkan country’s Constitutional Court for violating the constitution and planetary conventions.

Le Coz told Al Jazeera that Georgia, Ghana and Moldova were besides successful talks with European Union subordinate states to motion deals to behaviour portion oregon each of their asylum procedures connected their territory. Whether these agreements volition beryllium greenlit by courts adjacent twelvemonth is unclear.

“Deals that externalise asylum processing rise questions successful presumption of quality rights standards but besides connected governmental and fiscal costs,” Le Coz said. “In the end, nary of these deals are moving guardant due to the fact that their ineligible grounds are beauteous shaky, and truthful far, they person provided nary solutions portion incurring galore costs.”

Amid renewed involvement successful outer processing, the EU has been moving connected a New Pact connected Migration and Asylum to marque instrumentality and borderline procedures connected European ungraded “quicker and much effective”.

The pact, which reached a preliminary statement connected December 20 aft lengthy negotiations up of further statement successful the coming months, allows subordinate states to fast-track the processing of applications from countries with debased support rates, specified arsenic Morocco, Pakistan and India, and foresees tougher rules successful lawsuit of emergencies, including longer detention periods.

NGOs person denounced the pact arsenic a “devastating stroke to the close to question asylum successful the EU”, arguing that the measures erode planetary extortion standards.

“It volition normalise the arbitrary usage of migration detention … and instrumentality individuals to truthful called ‘safe 3rd countries’ wherever they are astatine hazard of violence, torture, and arbitrary imprisonment,” a radical of 50 civilian nine organisations said successful an unfastened letter.

“Human rights cannot beryllium compromised. When they are weakened, determination are consequences for each of us,” the missive added.

According to Le Coz, the interaction the pact is going to person connected the crushed adjacent twelvemonth remains unclear. “On 1 hand, determination is interest that the strategy is going excessively acold successful presumption of speedy processing of the asylum claims, and connected the different hand, determination are governmental forces betting connected the information that the pact is not going to present and that we should determination towards further deals with overseas governments similar Albania and Rwanda,” the expert said.

Border patrol

As Tunisia overtook Libya arsenic the apical embarkation constituent for radical heading from Africa to Europe this year, EU officials struck a 1 cardinal euro ($1.1bn) deal to bolster the bloc’s capableness to forestall refugees from mounting retired to oversea and stabilising Tunisia’s shaky economy.

Tunis was called to play a borderline patrol relation akin to erstwhile agreements struck with Tripoli and halt the inflow of refugees into European countries, months aft President Kais Saied launched a crackdown against undocumented sub-Saharan nationals, whom helium accused of crimes and plotting to alteration the country’s demographic makeup.

Tunisia’s mediocre economical concern and radical favoritism triggered an exodus towards European shores. “Tunisia utilized to beryllium a state of accomplishment for sub-Saharan migrants, but radical favoritism has forced galore to leave,” Di Giacomo said.

The UN estimated 96,175 radical who reached Italy’s shores this twelvemonth departed from Tunisia, compared with 29,106 past year.


Images of Italy’s southernmost land of Lampedusa receiving much than 6,000 radical wrong 24 hours connected September 12 prompted an visit by Meloni and von der Leyen, who pledged a crackdown connected the “brutal business” of radical smuggling and the swift repatriation of undocumented non-EU citizens.

About 70 percent of the radical going by vessel to Europe landed successful Lampedusa, the IOM estimated. “The exigency this twelvemonth has been lone successful Lampedusa, not successful Italy. This is simply a logistical emergency, not a numerical one,” Di Giacomo said.

The woody struck with Tunisia falls squarely wrong the trends characterising EU practice connected migration. Von der Leyen labelled the woody a “blueprint” for aboriginal arrangements, and the European Commission has anticipated that akin deals are successful the pipeline with Morocco, Egypt and Sudan.

A telephone for a tender for hunt and rescue boats was completed successful June for the transportation of 3 boats to Egypt, according to EU documents, and the 2nd signifier of a borderline absorption task worthy 87 cardinal euros ($95m) is expected to beryllium contracted successful the coming months.

Ibrahim Awad, manager of the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies astatine the University of Cairo, told Al Jazeera that departures from the Egyptian seashore are non-existent.

“What volition the boats do? People bash not migrate from the Egyptian seashore but from Libya,” the prof said. “I don’t spot the securitisation of migration to this grade to beryllium effectual successful obtaining the nonsubjective of the European Union, which is to support radical from arriving.”

Meanwhile, NGOs operating successful the Mediterranean said their hunt and rescue operations person been rendered much hard by a bid of laws passed by Meloni’s authorities that requires them to caput to a larboard instantly aft a rescue and disembark “without delay”. Yet the authorities typically grants entree lone to ports successful cardinal and bluish Italy that are usually acold distant from the places of rescue and imposes administrative sanctions connected those vessels that interruption these norms.

“We proceed to run astatine sea, albeit successful a precise inefficient way, portion the needs remain,” Giorgia Linardi, spokesperson for SeaWatch, told Al Jazeera. “Every authorities is devising its ain strategies to curb our activities astatine oversea portion it’s the radical successful request of rescue who wage the price.”

An investigation conducted by a consortium of media organisations, including Al Jazeera, recovered that a vas called the Tareq Bin Zeyad, linked to renegade Libyan General Kalifa Haftar, has been intercepting boats with asylum seekers astatine oversea and taking them backmost to Libya. The eastbound Mediterranean way saw a 50 percent summation successful departures successful 2023 compared with the erstwhile year.

The probe recovered that the European borderline agency, Frontex, was sharing coordinates with the vas portion interior documents revealed an effort to marque the militia that runs the vessel arsenic a morganatic spouse by formally labelling it portion of the Libyan coastguard.

While the EU has argued that NGO rescues disconnected Libya promote traffickers, civilian nine organisations person agelong denounced the agreements signed with North African governments, which they said supply an inducement for quality smugglers to put departures.

“The existent policies bash not curb quality smuggling,” Linardi said. “They enrich smugglers who instrumentality migrants backmost to Libya and tin nett from them different clip round.”

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