Public Affairs Networking
06/08 – New Mediterranean migrant disaster causing concern in Europe

The ongoing migrant crises in Calais and in the Mediterranean are still the top migration news in today’s European press. Media outlets, including, L’Avenir, and The Daily Mail, widely quote the reactions of EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, who told AFP yesterday that he was disappointed that EU member states have so far been reluctant to accept solidarity in the face of the crisis. “You must not become blinded by populist thought which is present in every country,” said President Juncker. “There are moments in politics when you must not follow the populists, otherwise you become populist yourself,” he added.

The EC President said the EU would resume efforts in the autumn to reach the target of hosting 60,000 asylum seekers across the EU. “If we don’t get there on a voluntary basis, we will have to reconsider the Commission’s proposals,” he said, referring to refugee quotas. A FAZ commentary notes that Juncker is right to be “speechless” in regards to the living conditions of refugees in Calais. As there is a right to asylum in the EU, the refugees’ arrival and asylum proceedings should be humane, the author stresses, particularly criticising the national egoism of the member states.

In other news, The Guardian, Tg1, The Malta Times and El País, among others, report that around 150 migrants are feared dead after a boat capsized off Libya yesterday afternoon. Survivors said there were some 550 people on board and that nearly 400 have been rescued. The UNHCR said that 25 migrants were confirmed dead. 100 of the asylum seekers were in the hull, giving them almost no hope of survival. “This is a very serious incident, the worst since the shipwreck in April”, underlines Leonard Doyle of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), quoted in De Standaard. Kathimerini and Kentriko deltio eidiseon say that, in a phone conversation, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos discussed the immediate need for the government to appoint an authority that will be responsible for the collection of the financial aid of the European Commission to Greece in relation to the migration issue. These monies will be for extraordinary aid to asylum services, the management of migration flows and other programmes.

Meanwhile, many media outlets, such as La Repubblica, Ö1, TVE, Vecer and Sega Daily, recall that Brussels earmarked €20 million for France (plus the previous €27 million provided to Britain) in order to better deal with the emergency in Calais. According to Commissioner Avramopoulos, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund was used to provide the support needed, while neither Britain nor France have called for additional assistance.

The media continue to report criticism, mostly on the EU. In an interview with Le Monde, former ambassador Gérard Foucher explains that the British control of immigrants in France recalls the idea of sovereignty limits. “We must strengthen coordination in the management of border regimes, beyond exceptional circumstances,” he adds. According to him, the current crisis shows that the Schengen agreement has to be extended to the countries where migrants come from. The growing distress in Calais will force migration onto the European political agenda, comments Pedro Camacho in Visão.

However, building walls, fences and increasing security at borders are inefficient strategies and show that Europe has lost its rationality and has turned its back on human rights. Europe has no medium or long-term political strategy and is even unable to manage daily crises, notes Mr Camacho. “Europe in danger,” reads a Bild Zeitung headline while a L’Humanité title reads “fortress Europe kills hundreds of migrants again,” referring to the death of migrants off the Libyan coast yesterday.

In De Morgen, Bart Eeckhout writes that the Presidents of the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament will offer their condolences and will speak of an “international crisis” which demands “solidarity” and “an integrated approach”. However, for once, they would do better to remain silent, Mr Eeckhout harshly critisises, underlining the lack of solidarity between EU member states regarding the refugee quota proposal. Along the same lines, Giovanni Maria Del Re argues writes in a commentary for Avvenire that the “latest tragedy” in the Mediterranean “casts a sinister light” on Europe’s “inability to react in a coordinated and coherent way” to the “epoch-making” phenomenon of migration.

In an opinion piece for El Mundo, Mariano Aguirre writes on the lack of a long-term migration plan. Mr Aguirre describes the migration issue as a huge global challenge, acknowledging the EU’s efforts in fostering a quota system for asylum seekers. However, he stresses that Europe won’t solve the issue by only offering humanitarian help. The EU-28 cannot solve the conflicts in Syria, Palestine and Libya, but it can certainly adopt a proactive diplomacy which involves political reform, cooperation and regional security, he adds.

El Mundo published an interview with Frontex Deputy Executive Director Gil Arias Fernández, in which he stresses that there is a lack of coordination between authorities and operational means which hinders Frontex’s effectiveness. In an interview with Aujourd’hui en France, former Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner says that there needs to be more rescue boats permanently posted to the Mediterranean, at least one from each EU member state. He says that Europe needs to do more, especially by investing massively in Africa. He supports the European Commission’s refugee quota proposal and says that the EU member states should accept it.

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