For some months now, the world has been watching helplessly as hundreds of African and Syrian migrants make desperate attempts daily to enter Europe either through the Mediterranean Sea or by crossing Euro-tunnel between France and Britain.
The response by European governments has been ad-hoc, arbitrary and panic-stricken, with the British Prime Minister referring to the migrants as “swarms”. This response, as expected, drew all-round condemnation, described in the editorial of the Financial Times (01-02 August 2015) as “the shallowest gesture in politics…”
These situations have called into the question the EU migration policy and have exposed the deficiencies of their current policy.
For so long as the Mediterranean crisis has existed, the EU has been, at best, lame-duck in responding to it and, at worst, blatantly racist and xenophobic. They have dismally failed to develop a long-term, sustainable and durable response to it, preferring instead to let the African migrants drown in the ocean rather than let them set their feet on European land.
In this regard, five firm points can be made: that is,
- The Calais crisis is of the EU’s own making, whether one considers the Syrian crisis or Libya, with the killing of Gadaffi and the creation of a clearly failing state (in Libya) where once there was a stable;
- The EU’s migration policy is an unmitigated disaster and there is an urgent need for a sustainable and comprehensive policy seeking to provide assistance to sending countries and regions so that they stabilise, democratise and develop;
- The EU needs to respond to these crises as a region, rather than individual countries often inspired by right-wing xenophobia or antipathy towards African migrants;
- Migration policy is very much related to a country’s or region’s international relations policy. Your migration policy must be informed by your foreign policy, both of which, in the EU’s case, are disastrous as they encourage disruption abroad and shutting down your borders at home; and
- It is very instructive that in the wake of all these crises the EU has not sought constructive dialogue with Africa, in particular, through the African Union, to find sustainable and durable solutions.
The Financial Times editorial earlier made a scathing remark that the EU lacks vision, saying that:
“The sharing of migrants across member states, the processing of asylum claims, the creation of legal routes into Europe – there should be a pan-European co-ordination of this. Instead, there is a dog’s breakfast of national policies, some more enlightened than others. Europe needs a sense of perspective, … The continent should also lift its sights and take the long view. Governments invest too much hope in technical fixes: a security measure here, a raid on people-traffickers there. The real problem is structural. As long as chaos reigns close to Europe, people will risk their lives to come here. The solution to the migrant problem lies at the source.”
Furthermore, it observed that:
“But a giant trade bloc with so much diplomatic expertise to call upon has no excuse to be passive… It has a direct interest in the security of North African ports and the economic prospects of the region, but it is a rare European leader who even talks about these challenges.”
The problem with Europe is that they are often the source of the problems that spawn irregular migration in particular and hence they cannot absolve themselves of these problems they have actively created.
It is worth noting that with this increased attention to Europe’s migration crisis, much neglected is the even more dangerous over-land migration throughout Africa which has resulted in thousands of people perishing as they try to cross the Sahara desert or thousands being trafficked from the horn of Africa, through East Africa into South Africa or elsewhere. Perhaps, it is because the former affect directly the big powers of Europe, but South Africa on her own, for example, has as much the same number of irregular migrants as the EU the bloc. But we do not call our situation a crisis.
In his article, “South Africa, the Global Immigration Crisis and the Challenge of African Solidarity”, Ademola Araoye wrote:
“In Africa, South Africa has been singularly hit by this worldwide phenomenon. This was inevitably a near and popular destination for the poor and wearied of Africa and Asia. barely two decades into its majority rule, in the context of its internal challenges and struggle as with most states hit by this global challenge, South Africa has paid the price of slugging messaging and faced the familiar hypocrisy of a world that has traditionally designed one measure for Africa and another for itself. But it is Africa that has been caught in the beams of the hypocritical international searchlight.” (The Thinker)
In our own case, in terms of our evolving philosophy of migration management, we have acknowledged that in order the better to manage this phenomenon, we need a “whole of government” and a “whole-of-society” approach. We can only succeed if we forge strategic partnerships across all of government, between government and society, including the migrants themselves, as well as across our region as no government can successfully manage migration on its own. We need a pan-African approach to manage migration so that we can harness its positive forces in our interests.
In this regard, we need to take a long view and be interested both in the security as well as economic development of all African countries. So long as South Africa is viewed as the only political and economic beacon on the continent, so long shall migrants keep seeking to come here both through regular and irregular means.
This is further compounded by the mere fact that we are still managing colonial borders that split families and tribal communities apart across different national borders. We must, consequently, continue pursuing and actively supporting the political and economic stabilisation and development of all our SADC and African neighbours. We must support regulated and gradual easing of movement in the region until we can achieve full free movement. As a regional and continental power, South Africa must lead in this regard.
Comrade Malusi Gigaba is a member of the ANC NEC and Minister of Home Affairs