Avoid drowning migrants in the Mediterranean


The Spanish government agreed on June 17th with the arrival of 630 immigrants in Valencia. A vote on this in parliament took place to the detriment of the minority government. It looks like this method of immigration will not work for Spain.

Prime Minister and foreman of PSOE Pedro Sanchez has called for European support. On July 27th he received Emmanuel Macron. A visit of Angela Merkel follows August 11th.

Proposals must be in balance between the call to close borders and the call for solidarity / responsibility. A solution is sought analogous to the Turkey deal for Greece and the Libya deal for Italy. An appeal to solidarity has insufficient resonance. Responsibility remains. Therefore today an argument from my side:

Statelessness and borders

In different parts of the world there is experience with immigration without valid documents. For example, in the Assam region of north-east India, 4 million people can not prove that they – or their ancestors – arrived before 1971. The government of India has no intention of deporting them. Human rights watch concludes that these people are in fact stateless and have insufficient civil rights. In the United States, immigrants have worked up to become nationalized Americans. In spite of this, the status of some of them is occasionally revoked depending on the wind blowing. In a modern society that assumes equal opportunities and social security for all, this is undesirable.

Living conditions and culture of Syria – before the war broke out – show more similarities with Turkey than with Western Europe. The chance of successful immigration in the intermediate region is greater. The former refugees build a new life with financial support from Europe. Settling in a context with which they are familiar, people can provide for their own livelihood and come into their own better. Providing a place for this natural fact calls for the recognition of boundaries.

Deal with North African countries vs support to southern European countries

The Turkey contract is the most successful in dealing with migration. After the 3 billion European support for refugees in Turkey, the map shows a significant decrease in the number of immigrants in Greece:

Mediterranean situation

Compared with this, immigration in Italy was high for several years. The strengthening of the Libyan coastguard only helped moderately:  decline only started after a domestic political turnaround that led to the coming of the Euro-skeptical Five-Star movement and Lega Nord.

Recently, Europe gave 25 million Euros to Spain for better surveillance at the border of two exclaves. Fences could not stop surpassing: border control alone does not help enough.

Placement in isolated camps vs integration in the country of arrival

In the Netherlands we know – as in many countries – camps that are (so-called temporarily) arranged for refugees. Performing paid work outside the walls is not allowed. That makes living on their own a utopia. These people are made dependent. After years of staying there is the threat of loss of work skills. Previous experience in the Netherlands with Moluccans who have been held in camps in Vught and Westerbork, will bring about risks of dissatisfaction and terror over time. This is an insufficiently sustainable situation.

The chances for success are greatest if the country of relocation has social and cultural similarities with the country of origin. As close as possible to the country of origin is preferred. The acceptance of immigrants there is greater than more distant regions in many respects, such as western Europe.

40 percent of African immigration in Spain is said to come from Algeria and Morocco itself. A proposal to Algeria / Morocco for setting up camps will not receive enough support from those countries. While north Africa is only 14 kilometers separated from the Spanish and therefore European coast, there are huge differences in economic, social, human rights and political stability. Lessen these inequalities has to be the main goal to reduce the travesties there are now in our Mediterranian. Working towards a status as full citizens at the north African side of the border is better on points.

Confined camps for semi-permanent shelter lead to loss and failure in the long term, even to crisis. A solution must be sought in socio-economic progress in an intermediary region. Support for economic, social, human rights and progress for people should therefore focus on bordering countries such as in North Africa. Expert advice and diplomacy will help as much as just Euro’s.

Selective immigration with a green card

“Nowhereland – a new light on migration” is a book by the Dutch Femke Halsema. She wants a transformation from the relief camp to an attractive open city with facilities for work and education. From there, skilled labour may be able to migrate to scarce occupations in Europe. Proposal is to facilitate selective migration of the qualified African worker so that a successful arrival is prepared for and exploited by European employers.

Deal with North African countries regarding development aid

Thanks in part to the rapidly improved communication via internet and satellite, the transfer of knowledge between Europe and Africa has increased. The socio-economic growth in African countries now often is comparable with the European two or three percent rate. International companies such as Dangote group and Kirloskar Enriching Lives show what makes Africa grow and what catches up prosperity differences. Europe can accelerate the process with investment aid in industries that provide for local population’s basic needs. That will reduce the motivation for economic migration. It gives the EU a negotiating position and can lead to some respect for Europe’s sovereignty and borders.

Professor of EU politics Steven van Hecke of KU Leuven says: money is the quickest and easiest deployable tool for the EC. About money the committee can decide autonomously. An amount of €6,000 per immigrant is mentioned. This is insufficient when spending in Italy, according to the Italian minister of internal affairs Matteo Salvine. It will also be too little for Spain. The amount gets to value when it is spend as development aid in north and west African countries.

Exclave frayed edges

A large part of immigration from Africa that this year reaches Spain passes through the exclaves Ceuta and Mellila, small fortified towns on the Mediterranean coast of north Africa, conquered by Spain in the Middle Ages. Due to economic resilience of these cities pertaining to the Moroccan hinterland, Spain has granted exemption for paying taxes. This causes intensive ferry traffic from and to Spain as well as tourism.

Minister of Taxes loses income with these paradises. Morocco regards the exclaves as occupied Moroccan territory. In short, both are not happy. Fences to prevent inflow from Africa merely challenge the vitality of potential workers, as the photo shows.

Fencing cost millions of Euro’s for the European taxpayer

The overseas territories mainly have a function in connection with the Spanish royal family: in 2007, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia paid a visit. The proposal is to transfer the exclaves to Morocco because of: [1] more efficient border control, [2] rationalization of the Spanish tax system and [3] the historic city centres can become an inviting entrance for tourism to Morocco.

Mexican wall and Donald Trump twitter versus diplomacy

In the last CNN program Global Public Square of Fareed Zakaria, attention was paid to border control between Mexico and the United States. Discussion about whether or not to build a wall, has a parallel with what plays between Morocco and Spain. More people from central American countries like Guatemala Salvador and Honduras cross the border with Mexico, than the number of Mexicans who emigrate to the United States. In fact, the migration from Mexicans to the United States is negative: 800 thousand  people crossed the border to the United States between 2009 and 2014 and one million returned, according to Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. Mexico has become more a transit region than an emigration country: hundreds of thousands of people from central America pass Mexico with as final destination the United States.

This provides a shared challenge for the countries of origin as well for the country of settlement so that human rights are respected and proper treatment for all is ensured. Border control is only part of the solution, says Videgaray: it is more important to invest jointly in the economy of Central America.

Luis repeated several times: delineating the border between Mexico and the United States or contributing to it by Mexico as proposed in Trump’s public statements is not a subject of serious conversation between the two countries. This may be different for Morocco: transfer from the cities of Ceuta and Melilla may be on the agenda. The way to achieve this is not via social media but through diplomacy.

Summit in Salzburg

The EU Council has requested the EC to create an order for migration through the Mediterranean. Brussels politics is on holiday until August 20th. My proposal to the EC is to develop a plan for investment aid in industries that meet basic needs in Morocco and Algeria. In early September, the EC plans are expected to be discussed at the informal summit in Salzburg at the end of September.

Bert Kerkhof
Volunteer worker for the European Commission

Note: In his reaction of August 8th, the Rotterdam mayor and social democrat Ahmed Aboutaleb “greatly appreciates the input of the citizen involved”. He takes the matter into his deliberations.


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