No legal option for migrants
The European Union is very wide of the mark in its efforts to deal with migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, according to NAI researcher Anitta Kynsilehto. Instead, long-term solutions on legal labour migration to Europe, as well as legal ways of seeking asylum, must be provided.
“If it were possible to enter Europe legally, migrants wouldn’t have to risk everything on a single crossing. Instead, they could decide to go back home if things don’t turn out as expected – and also have the option to try their luck again in Europe in the future. Now, if they manage to arrive, they have to stay, because they know they probably won’t get another chance,” Kynsilehto observes.
The only way to tackle the problem of smugglers is to put them out of business, make their services redundant. Since in practice there is no legal way to enter Europe, except for a very small and privileged population stratum, people seeking asylum or coming to work must contact smugglers to help them make the crossing. This is much more expensive than if they could travel by normal means. Many have to sell everything, or go into debt, to cover the costs.
People are desperate
After the latest tragic accidents, resulting in several hundred casualties, European Union leaders have decided to destroy the smugglers’ boats along the North African coastline.
“That won’t help at all. It is a stupid suggestion that might actually worsen the situation. People are desperate and will do anything to cross the sea. If there are no boats, migrants may construct simple rafts that could lead to even more tragic accidents. The EU proposal definitely will not prevent migrants from trying to reach Europe,” Kynsilehto states.
However, she has no objections to EU search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
“This is something needed right away in order to save lives. However, it is obviously not a long-term solution. Migrants don’t lack information ‒ they know full well how dangerous the journey is, but they have no alternatives,” she concludes.