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European Policies on Migrants Under Fire

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 2015 (IPS) - The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants has criticised European policies towards migrants and asylum seekers, saying “the status quo isn’t sustainable.”

François Crépeau spoke at the end of an official visit to Brussels, warning leaders that if financial and human resources continued to be spent on securing borders, Europe would “certainly continue to lose control of its borders.”

Crépeau noted that migrants and asylum seekers leave their countries due to push factors including war, conflict, natural disasters, persecution or extreme poverty, as well as in response to pull factors such as the unrecognised needs in the labour markets of EU Member States.

These “push and pull factors” are unlikely to change in the near future.

“EU Member States must accept that migrants will continue to come, no matter what, and offer them incentives to use regular channels,” said Crépeau.

At the University of Oxford’s International Migration Institute, research led by Hein de Haas supports this. Rather than having the desired effect, restrictions may compel migrants to try other geographical routes by migrating to or via other countries.

De Haas’ work found that, ironically, one of the strongest effects of immigration restrictions was that they reduce return migration, encouraging migrants to settle permanently once they have arrived at their destination.

The Special Rapporteur called on Europe not “to turn a blind eye to the pull factors for irregular migration,” such as the unrecognized needs for migrant workers in labour markets.

Crépeau underscored that “any attempt at sealing borders – as the nationalist populist discourse stridently calls for – will continue to fail on a massive scale… Sealing international borders is impossible. Migrants will continue arriving despite all efforts to stop them, at a terrible cost in lives and suffering if nothing else is put in place.”

His warning comes at a time when Europe is taking heavy criticism over its policies towards migrants, especially with respect to the Syrian refugee crisis.

The Council of Europe’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks wrote in an article on the Council’s blog on the 3rd February, “Just over a year ago… I concluded that Europe had failed to rise to the challenge and was neglecting this crisis.

“As another year has passed in which more and more Syrians suffered the consequences of conflict in their country, all European states are urged to be more generous and assume their responsibility for providing effective protection to those in need.”

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