Photo: United Nations News Centre,

Rethinking the Mediterranean Crisis

Create legal entry points into the EU and start recruiting labour through EU embassies in Africa. And don’t forget the individual aspirations and capabilities of the migrants. NAI’s migration researcher Jesper Bjarnesen offers advice to EU policymakers in the new Policy Report “Rethinking the Mediterranean Crisis”.

“In the media coverage as well as in political debates about illegal immigration to the EU, migrants have gradually lost their humanity and have become an anonymous mass, perceived as a threat to European security and prosperity,” Jesper Bjarnesen writes in the report.

The dehumanising view of migrants and immigration signifies not merely a lack of empathy, it is also inefficient, Bjarnesen argues.

According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, 322,500 persons were registered as arriving across the Mediterranean into the EU between January and August 2015. Bjarnesen, senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute, has spent years undertaking field studies on refugees and migrants in West Africa. He is critical of how the EU is handling the Mediterranean crisis and says that policymakers don’t seem to take into account the many different reasons people undertake the perilous boat journeys. 

Secondly, the African perspective is often lost.

“News reporting and debate is focused on war refugees from Syria. This is understandable, but citizens from Sub-Saharan African countries also constitute a significant proportion. That must also be taken into account in fully understanding the Mediterranean crisis,” he says.

Thirdly, as long as there few legal avenues for labour migrants to get an EU work permit, they will remain passive recipients of government welfare. Aspiring labour migrants could contribute to the well-being of their extended families at home and fill the gaps in the European labour market.

Finally, refugees have different aspirations and capabilities.

– Some wish to return to their countries of origin as soon as possible, but others would prefer to work and live more permanently in the country of asylum. If we pay more attention to these different aspirations, we would make it possible for refugees to make a bigger financial contribution.

Read more in Policy Note 9/2015 Rethinking the Mediterranean Crisis: Advice for policy makers facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

More comments by Bjarnesen in the media:

Metro: “The problem with the EU model is that we don’t take advantage of the unique individual resources and make them an active part of society” (interview in Swedish).

P5 Radio Stockholm: “We can learn from examples like Uganda that refugees are full of resources as well. In Europe, we create passive people because of our immigration systems” (interview in Swedish only).

To the top