Europe further tightens border controls

The European Union is further increasing its efforts to keep out migrants and refugees. European leaders have agreed to ask North African countries to host detention camps for refugees and migrants, in an effort to stop boats arriving in Europe.

But they still need to find a country to host them. An EU summit on migration also called on ships run by aid organisations to leave rescues at sea to the Libyan coastguard—meaning that refugees will drown.

They also agreed to do more to share the responsibility for accepting refugees. But there is little detail on how this will happen.

There is no real “migration crisis” in Europe. The number of refugees and migrants has dropped dramatically since 2015, when the Syrian crisis saw over a million refugees arrive in Europe. Last year less than 172,000 people crossed the Mediterranean. This is less than 0.4 per cent of the European Union’s population.

What has changed is the rise of far right. The governments of Italy and Austria now include far right parties determined to stop immigration. Italy has closed its ports to rescue ships in the Mediterranean, and turned away three separate boats, which have been forced to land in Malta and Spain.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has adopted new anti-migrant measures after her coalition government faced collapse. Her interior minister, from coalition ally the Christian Social Union, Horst Seehofer, threatened to resign unless Germany closed its border to prevent asylum seeker arrivals. His party faces an electoral threat from the far right AfD in upcoming elections in Bavaria.

Merkel has agreed to set up detention centres on Germany’s border with Austria to try to send back asylum seekers already registered in another European country. But this requires agreements with other countries to accept them back. Austria and Italy have threatened to close their borders in turn if this goes ahead.

Across Europe, the right is scapegoating immigrants for unemployment and inequality. The left has to pin the blame on those really responsible—corporations and rich.


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