All over the world, cities have been much less fearful about migration. Since cities haven’t had walls for several centuries and because they had to absorb the 20th century rural exodus, thus growing to be multiple times as big as they were, cities have learned to cope with migration, to adapt to change, and to benefit from the influx of energy, ideas, creativity and wealth that migration produces.
”Germany can cope with at least 500,000 asylum seekers a year for several years, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said.”
At long last, a mainstream politician is adopting a public discourse which runs contrary to all the fantasies, stereotypes and prejudices of the nationalist populist discourse.
Yes, Germany has the capacity to take half a million asylum seekers per year. This means that France, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Australia, and other rich countries can provide shelter to a proportionate number of migrants as well. What was lacking until now was the political will, and one German politician, Vice-Chancellor Gabriel, has finally found the courage to take on the nationalist populist politicians and their fallacies head on.
The Australian model seems to be the worst possible: deterrence through mass human rights violations. It has “stopped the boats” for now, but this is only because of the relative geographical isolation of Australia. This would not work in Europe, and would also be prohibited by local tribunals, the European Court of Human rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Prohibition pushes migrants deeper into the underground and entrenches the market for smugglers and unscrupulous employers. Mobility solutions offered by States – such as resettlement programmes for refugees directly from transit countries and smart visas for people to come and look for work – allow individuals to enter legally and come forward to register with the authorities. Territorial sovereignty is about controlling the border, and controlling the border is about knowing who enters and who leaves: any mechanism that incentivises people to come forward to the border guard because they have appropriate papers is better than mechanisms that actually will push the migrants to find mobility solutions with smugglers and leave the authorities in the dark as to who enters the territory.
The present chaos serves perfectly the nationalist populist movements. There will be electoral consequences to the present inability of European leaders to rise to the political occasion. They seem incapable to explain to their electorate that borders are porous and migration can’t be stopped in the long term by police methods, to develop a positive discourse on mobility and diversity as foundation stones of contemporary European societies, to build a realistic collective long term plan that includes a massive resettlement programme for refugees, with efficient distribution keys, and many more legal ways to enter Europe to look for work, and therefore to start organising the migration movements – thus taking over the mobility market from the smugglers – rather than try resisting them – which only creates more precariousness for migrants and entrenches smuggling operations –.
The first major political casualty risks being the free movement of persons inside Europe: this would be a huge step backwards in time and a recoil from one of the key philosophical foundations of the Union. The second probable consequence of the present chaos could be in the UK: based on the fears stoked by all domestic political parties of an invasion of migrants and the destruction of the British way of life, there’s now a reasonable chance that PM Cameron will lose his referendum and that UK will exit the EU.
Asia is following very closely what Europe does to cope with the “migration crisis”. Whatever solutions Europeans adopt risk being imitated elsewhere. Choosing unprincipled and incoherent policies will spur the same kind of treatment in other regions of the world where migration pressures are high.
Europe has the opportunity to become a trailblazer in adopting migration policies based on a forward-looking conception of human rights and mobility: a unified refugee determination system could be part of it.