As EU leaders and their North African counterparts host a series of immigration summits, the European Race Bulletin seeks to establish what is really going on behind the scenes.
In The Mediterranean Solution, Liz Fekete argues that under cover of combating human trafficking, EU countries are rescinding the rights of boat people travelling from Africa to claim asylum in southern European countries. The EU, drawing on Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’, is in the process of further militarising its coastal borders, entering into new repatriation agreements with North African countries and developing a new complex of detention centres to extend from Malta, Cyprus, Lampedusa and the Canary Islands, to Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania and beyond.
The intention is to lock North African countries into the EU’s deportation programme through the funding of detention centres outside Europe. There, southern Europe’s rejected boat people are to be held while North African officials do the EU’s work of arranging return to country of origin.
‘A specific category of asylum seeker – boat people arriving at the southern European front line states – are already being denied access to the asylum determination procedure’, comments Liz Fekete. ‘This violation of the Geneva Convention is set to intensify if the Mediterranean Solution is institutionalised.’ Furthermore, the programme to return boat people to Libya – a country which has not even signed the Geneva Convention – will undermine the UNHCR, which is not recognised by the Libyan authorities and which, unlike the EU’s preferred partner, the IOM, has a mandate for refugee protection.
But the The Mediterranean Solution is having an unintended effect. Resentment and anger at Europe’s treatment of boat people is not only growing across Africa but is being linked to European policies of managed migration and exploitation of Africa’s human wealth – the doctors and other professionals educated at African expense. ‘Selective immigration’, argues the reggae singer and UN messenger for peace for the Ivory Coast, Alpha Blondy, is a form of ‘mandatory apartheid’, ‘taking us back to the time of slavery, when the traders chose the strongest or those with the best teeth to take to the west’.