Ways out of the migration crisis

_ Dr. Rainer Rothfuß. ID group, European Parliament. Brussel, 9 September 2020. Translation into English by Yuri Kofner. Published for debate.

Rothfuss R. (2020). Wege aus der Migrationskrise Leitlinien für ein exterritoriales Schutz- und Entwicklungskonzept und eine Remigrationsagenda für Europa. ID-Fraktion im Europäischen Parlament. 

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In view of the long-term growing migratory pressure from Africa and Asia, the issues of migration and asylum are among the most important policy areas that will be decisive for the future and shape of Europe by the end of the 21st century. The “Corona lockdown crisis” initiated in 2020 will require a fundamental reassessment of the economic, social and political globalization processes and the migration paradigm in the coming years. The world is at a crossroads to maximize global interdependencies or to return them moderately to decentralized, more regionally focused relationships. Open borders on a global level for capital flows, supply chains and migration are increasingly proving to be a risk factor for the necessary stability of highly complex systems. The prioritization of the “proximity” factor appears to be essential especially in those areas in which supra-regional or even global long-distance interrelationships are not absolutely necessary and which increase the risk susceptibility of the systems dangerously. This paradigm shift away from the prioritization of “globalism” and towards “intelligent proximity” as a model will also be reflected in migration.

Development and help based on the principle of proximity

The migration problem is primarily based on economic issues, the asylum issue primarily on humanitarian issues. The present study confirms these two assessment frameworks in principle, but recommends a fundamental paradigm shift in the design of the respective political fields of action according to the “concept of proximity” or the “principle of proximity”:

  1. Away from solving problems of “skills shortages” and “demographic change” by prioritizing non-European immigration towards the consistent use of intra-European human resources to promote greater intra-European cohesion.
  2. Away from the idea of territorial protection in and the promotion of long-distance migration to Europe – towards the concept of sustainable protection in and a development promotion for regions of origin and donor regions oriented towards the remigration goal.

Since the triggers of migration and flight are of a different nature in purely definitional terms, but in practice the motive usually blends smoothly between economic and political drivers for the individual migration movement, both categories are dealt with together in this study. For historical context, it should be noted that the shocking experiences of the Second World War, with many millions of dead and displaced persons, had induced the international community to enshrine the rights of refugees in the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention. Since then, the framework conditions for mobility and communication over larger spatial, even global distances have changed massively due to a technological revolution.

Since the turn of the millennium at the latest, a reassessment of the question of how to provide appropriate humanitarian aid and protection to people in crisis situations has become overdue. After all, mass refugee and irregular migration movements of the predominantly economically and physically better off in a crisis society over long and dangerous distances, and consequently assistance exclusively for the “successful migrants” towards the destination countries of Europe, are not the most rational and humanitarian solution to the actual basic problem. The study therefore recommends structuring future aid strictly according to the principle of proximity: protection and aid with maximum cost efficiency and at the same time humanitarian aid and development on-site in the country of origin or neighbouring country rather than permanent relocation to distant target countries with socio-economic and cultural framework conditions that make integration difficult because they are completely different.

Taking Europe’s shared responsibility for the causes of flight seriously

The question of what role the military interventions of the Western states, some of which are contrary to international law, and ongoing economic sanctions have played in the emergence of serious crisis situations and massive refugee and migration movements must no longer be excluded. Political and media communication patterns must be questioned if mass refugee and migration movements that are directly responsible are wrongly presented as unchangeable and admission to Europe is presented to the public as a humanitarian act of “solidarity” without alternative or as the only possible solution.

Instead of wanting to remedy the situation retrospectively by absorbing some of the refugee flows, the cause of the destabilization of the countries of origin, including internal and external factors, that have contributed to migratory pressure in the first place, must be addressed. Damaged states cannot enforce rebuilding efforts due to their powerless position against intervening states such as the USA or their European and NATO allies. Unfortunately, the intervening states hardly ever effectively support the reconstruction of the damaged countries of migration origin (current examples would be Libya and Syria). In some cases, the countries in need of their own efforts are hindered in the long term by means of economic sanctions, as in the case of Syria by the USA and the EU. Large parts of the country have been pacified since 2018 and Syrian refugees who enjoy asylum or subsidiary protection in Germany and other European countries could get involved in reconstruction programs in their home countries instead of waiting for families to reunite in the countries of refuge.

The EU institutions should also follow the general principle that foreign trade partnership agreements and development cooperation activities must not contradict the primacy of avoiding the causes of displacement. This also applies to private-sector activities by European companies, which should rather be involved as partners for remigration and reintegration and strengthened in the establishment of mutually beneficial exchange relationships.

Expansion of the migration discourse

The search for solutions in the policy areas of migration and asylum has so far been restricted too much to the migration-friendly model of an increasingly dense network of national, EU and UN rules, which argues that long-distance migration – be it through flight or illegal border crossing or, more recently, increasingly resettlement – allegedly is without an alternative. This represents an unacceptable development. A school of interpretation of long-distance migration as a quasi “natural” form of humanitarian aid, which has dominated for decades, has massively steered the scientific debate, political solution models and public opinion and restricted the search for alternative solutions. The present study aims to contribute to the objective expansion of the migration discourse to arrive at new, long-term sustainable and holistically more humanitarian solution concepts in an open-ended debate across society. Objectively well-founded criticism of a dysfunctional migration and asylum policy that largely lacks the real meaning must no longer be denigrated and de-legitimized with the cheap attributes and ideologized fighting terms of “xenophobia”. A social, scientific and political discourse that is free of domination and open to results is expedient in this core question.

Global lobby for long-distance migration

Such a discursive opening process and the possible establishment of a new model of the principle of proximity in migration and asylum issues will meet with the determined resistance of those actors who – for the most varied of political, economic and ideological interests and motives – hold on to the currently prevailing prioritization of long-distance migration. A paradigm shift in EU migration and refugee policy can only be expected to a limited extent in the next ten years due to the priorities that have been set in the EU migration agenda and due to the sluggishness of political negotiation processes in the EU political system. The current revision of the EU migration agenda follows the model of the UN Migration and Refugee Pact, which curbs only illegal migration, but at the same time promotes legal long-distance migration and anchors it as a priority solution concept on a global level for all states.

International agency for remigration

Therefore, the study recommends a differentiated approach at different speeds through the formation of a “coalition of the willing” for the implementation of an extra-territorial protection and development concept including a “remigration agenda” (Rothfuß 2018 and 2019). Without a cooperation network, smaller individual states will hardly be able to cope with the complex requirements of a holistic on-site protection and remigration concept. This is shown by the examples of Australia and Israel (14th and 33rd place of the largest economies) with their unilaterally initiated, still highly deficit approaches (see Jungehülsing 2016, p. 245ff and Knaul 2016, p. 282ff), although Switzerland (20th place) has already achieved encouraging results with return assistance and development aid in the homeland of at least 40,000 Kosovar refugees (see SRF, 02/09/2018).

At the core of a remigration alliance should be states from all over the world that are exposed to massive migration pressure. The prerequisite is the willingness of the governments to strive for the principle of proximity of aid and protection on the ground and to implement this effectively using appropriate means and in compliance with humanitarian principles. The aim is to plan and implement the orderly and assisted remigration and reintegration of temporarily admitted migrants and refugees back to their countries of origin. This remigration alliance, which would be gradually built up and expanded, could form an international organization with its own budget and robust competencies under the control of the sovereign member states in the sense of an “agency for remigration”. Organizationally, the agency should not be subordinate to either the European Union or the United Nations, but – if the sovereign interests of the states involved are safeguarded in accordance with democratic principles – should follow the requirements of international humanitarian law. The experiences of this alliance could fertilize the learning process of the European Union in migration and asylum policy and help initiate a paradigm shift.

The process steps for a protection system and development model based on the principle of proximity can be summarized as follows:

  1. Establishing effective pan-European border security system under primarily national responsibility, which not only protects the Schengen area from illegal immigration, but also the upstream EU neighbouring states, especially in the Balkans, which are suffering from the stage migration stopped at the Schengen borders.
  2. Concerted pan-European dismantling of the pull effects for illegal migration, which result in particular from relatively high social transfer payments to migrants and the possibility of legalizing the residence status by means of tolerance for employment.
  3. Stop of all illegal international military interventions and regime change operations by Western states that destabilize countries of origin and initiate mass refugee movements through push effects or which transform neighbouring European states into “failed states” and thus turn them into gateways for illegal migration.
  4. Ending all illegal economic sanctions against poorer countries of origin as part of regime change operations that damage large sections of the population by destroying the economy and thus provoke mass migration or make return virtually impossible.
  5. Negotiating and, if necessary, diplomatically enforcing agreements between the countries of destination and countries of origin using appropriate non-aggressive means of pressure, which stipulate fair conditions on both sides for the main goals of reconstruction and economic development as well as the – sometimes even specifically requested – return of refugees and migrants.
  6. Establishing open protective settlements and dynamic development poles outside Europe in countries of origin or neighbouring regions as an alternative to granting protection within the territorial borders of Europe, in which it would be ensured that:
    1. the human rights of migrants and those seeking protection are respected;
    2. if necessary, provide protection guarantees secured by military means for permanent security;
    3. specially persecuted groups are separated and appropriately protected;
    4. a large number of people are supported and integrated;
    5. demand-oriented training and further education opportunities are offered;
    6. economic, including agricultural and industrial activities are developed;
    7. appropriate on-site treatment of diseases is possible;
    8. the return to the original homeland is encouraged as far as possible;
    9. the (non-European) host states benefit from the poles of development;
    10. the co-financing states benefit from economic exchanges;
  7. Supplementary training programs for tolerated persons who are obliged to leave the host country and recognized asylum seekers who are tailor-made for a responsible professional activity in the construction of protective settlements and development poles under the guidance of development experts and for future economic cooperation.
  8. Repatriation and reintegration, supported by holistic help, of illegal migrants and unrecognized asylum seekers already in Europe and the Schengen area to those non-European protection and development poles that are closest to their respective regions of origin or, alternatively, to their home town.
  9. Establishment of a new geopolitical model of a stable equilibrium for Europe and its neighbours through European “contraction” with regard to destructive military, economic and political foreign interference with simultaneous European “expansion” in order to establish fair economic exchange processes, education and development impulses and the rule of law.
  10. The controlling accompaniment of all process steps from the previous migration chaos to a stable and fair equilibrium between Europe and its neighbours should be methodically tested in pilot projects on the basis of cooperating pioneer states and gradually expanded to other partner states and the EU.

Long-term goal of a stable peace order between Europe and its neighbours

At the end of the process chain of converting the current protection system based on long-distance migration into a help model based on the principle of proximity, there is a stable order of a fair partnership based on personal responsibility between Europe and its neighbours in Africa and Asia. Each of these three major regions is increasingly assuming responsibility for solving its own problems and no longer intervenes in (covert) illegitimate ways in the sphere of the neighbour. The neighbouring regions in Africa and Asia are challenged, but also encouraged, to create stable, attractive framework conditions for internal development and external economic cooperation. This includes social development, professional qualifications, and provisions against excessive, unsustainable population growth beyond the intraregional sustainability. Both Europe and the neighbouring regions in Africa and Asia are encouraged to preserve their cultural uniqueness while at the same time respecting human rights at home. In the stable and partnership-based network of relationships that has been achieved, the interference of powers that are fighting for geopolitical supremacy in the European neighbourhood, i.e. the USA and China, should find less space if it contradicts European interests. The interests of Europe and its neighbours in stability and prosperity come to the fore and delegitimize the enforcement of conflicting interests of distant hegemonic powers.

Intra-regionally, both Europe and the neighbouring regions in Africa and Asia must succeed in solving internal development problems with their own resources. In Europe, this concerns the shortage of skilled workers in individual industries – which has been put into perspective by the Corona lockdown crisis – as well as the decades-old challenge of low birth rates. In the neighbouring areas of Asia and Africa, it concerns in particular the creation of stable and trustworthy systems of political, economic and social order that enable education, development, intercultural coexistence and the curbing of excessive population growth in all states. For Europe, interventions in the neighbouring regions contrary to international law are taboo and for them the instrumentalization of Europe as an overflow basin for excessive population growth and a source of remittances.

Source: https://www.id-afd.eu/

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