ISSUE 10 | 2015
THE CALAIS SITUATION HIGHLIGHTS THE DISMAL FAILURE OF CURRENT FAILURE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION MIGRATION POLICY APPROACHES
For a few weeks now, the world has been watching helplessly as hundreds of African and Syrian migrants make desperate attempts every night to enter Britain through the Euro- tunnel between France and Britain.
It is claimed, according to Britain’s “The Independent” newspaper, that since the advent of the Calais situation, between 200 and 300 migrants have been trying to enter the terminal each night, and the numbers rose to 500 by the end of last week. The newspaper says that according “to reports, some 150 have succeeded in reaching Britain. One man has been killed – the ninth since June.”
The newspaper further claims that there were an estimated 39,000 attempts illegally to cross the Channel in 2014-15, more than double the estimated figures the previous year. The response by both the British and French authorities have, as we have said above, been ad- hoc, arbitrary and panic-stricken, with the British Prime Minister referring to the migrants as “swarms”, and pledging to deploy more sniffer-dogs and troops to stem the tidal waves of these unwanted “swarms”. This response by the British Prime Minister has been described in the editorial of the Financial Times (01-02 August 2015) as “the shallowest gesture in politics, a ploy to keep the press sated for a few days.”
Of course, this was not the first and only migrants’ crisis that the European Union (EU) has been faced with, since the spectre of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea has been haunting the EU for a long time now, calling into question the EU migration policy, exposing the deficiencies of their current policy and hurling some EU governments into blatant xenophobia as an official policy.
For so long as this 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 – many of them women and children – drown in the ocean and be devoured by the vicious waters rather than let them set their feet on European land in pursuit of better economic opportunities and a better life.
In this regard, I wish to make five firm points: 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);
The EU’s migration policy is an unmitigated disaster and there is an urgent need for a sustainable and comprehensive policy that is not informed by racism and right-wing inspired xenophobia. The EU approach of throwing money into the problem does not work; what is needed is the provision of assistance to sending countries and regions so that they stabilise, democratise and develop on their own basis, rather than EU basis;
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, which, in the EU’s case, are both 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. Their regional responses are failing.
The Financial Times editorial makes the following scathing remark, which I intend quoting extensively for the sharpness of its analysis, that:
“If Mr Cameron lacks vision, so too does the European Union itself. 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.” (all emphases mine)
Furthermore, the editorial observes 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.” (all emphases mine)
These extensive quotes underscore the five points made above. The problem with Europe is that they are often the source of the problems that spawn irregular migration in particular such as in Syria and elsewhere in the Maghreb, particularly in Libya. They cannot extricate themselves from the problems they have actively created.
Europe is in the dangerous clutches of parochial nationalism. This applies both at regional as well as national levels. European interests are defined narrowly and in an exclusive manner, and each country seeks and pursues its own narrow interests that often negate regional interests. This is as dangerous as it is short-sighted because it is precisely NOT how a country or region can solve a migration challenge of the intensity Europe is facing.
Anyway, the so-called European challenge is a challenge faced often by a single country in Africa. South Africa alone receives, per annum, two-thirds, of the irregular migrants the EU as a bloc receives per annum. When we met the UNHCR, they observed that all this focus on the Mediterranean Sea and Calais is deflecting attention away from over-land migration, which is perhaps even more pronounced especially at regional levels. Perhaps, it is because the former affect directly the big powers of Europe, but South Africa on her own, for example, has much the same number of irregular migrants as the EU regional bloc. But we do not call our situation a crisis.
Even so, in our own case, we have been arguing that in terms of our newly-evolving philosophy of migration management, we acknowledge that,
First, the Department of Home Affairs cannot manage international migration on its own – we need a “whole of national government” approach;
Secondly, national government cannot manage international migration on its own – we need the active participation of and close collaboration with the provincial and local / municipal tiers;
Thirdly, government, even as a whole, cannot manage international migration on its own – we need the active participation of and close collaboration with society, communities and civil society organisations, and
Finally, South Africa as a whole cannot manage international migration on her own – we need collaboration with our neighbours both in SADC and continent as a whole. We need a pan-African approach to manage migration so that we can harness its positive forces in our interests and favour.
In this regard, we too, like Europe, 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, stable, democratic, economically strong, with a government that provides its citizens with basic and social services and a society conducive to the pursuit of a better life for small entrepreneurs, so long shall migrants keep seeking to breach our immigration laws in order to come here.
This is further compounded by the mere fact that we are still managing colonial borders that split families and tribal communities apart between different national borders. Our approach must be cognisant of these objective realities even as we seek to harvest political, international relations, economic and security benefits for our country from the processes of international migration.
We must, consequently, continue pursuing and actively supporting the consolidation of political democratisation and stabilisation across the SADC region, economic growth and development, the building of strong states that inspire confidence among their nationals, the civic registration of SADC nationals through creation of population databases and registers, and regulated and gradual easing of movement in the region until we can achieve full free movement. As a regional and even continental power, South Africa must lead in this regard, bearing in mind the soon-to-be-established Tripartite Free Trade Area.
As for South Africa, the new policy development approach we are taking is more long- sighted, sustainable and promising of better results. This is the only way!
Malusi Gigaba MP
Minister of Home Affairs