Debate on the external dimensions of migration and asylum, including effective ways to address the root causes, should not be taboo in the EU, the world’s largest donor of development aid, writes Tomas Tobé.
Tomas Tobé is a Swedish member of the European People’s Party and chair of the European Parliament’s Development Committee.
The latest figures on global displacement from UNHCR indicate that a majority of the more than 82 million displaced persons are within their countries of origin. They are internally displaced persons. Further, a majority of those having crossed an international border are in neighbouring countries.
The Syrian civil war has displaced more than six million people, of which almost five and a half million are in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt or Iraq. 98% of the almost one and a half million refugees hosted by Uganda originate in South Sudan, Dem. Rep. Congo, Burundi, Somalia and Rwanda.
This highlights that a vast majority of the world’s displaced persons are either in their country of origin or in the neighbouring area. 86% are in developing countries. The global pandemic has further exacerbated existing tensions in these regions and will likely also act as a push factor for further socioeconomic migration.
In the political narrative from the left, asylum in Europe is presented as the only tangible and permanent solution to any and every injustice in the world. They attempt to make the necessary discussion on the external dimensions of migration, including effective ways to address the root causes, into a taboo.
However, it forms a central part of a well-functioning asylum and migration management, which takes control over our borders, provides access to swift and fair asylum processes and returns those not granted the right to stay.
The New Pact on Asylum and Migration rightly attempts to make a distinction between those in need of protection and irregular migrants in an effort to alleviate the pressure on frontline member states and destination countries of secondary movement.
Further, I welcome the increased focus on combatting human smuggling networks. member states should decide upon the right of entry to the European Union, not cynical criminals without any consideration to human life or dignity. Their impunity must end.
Last year, there were just over four million asylum seekers globally, of which 416,000 sought protection in one of the member states.
The approval rate in the first instance averaged 40%. Just short of 70,000 people were granted protection following an appeal. Consequently, a vast majority of the displaced persons never set their foot on European soil. This should not diminish the EU’s role as an important geopolitical actor.
Migration is caused by underlying factors, and we can address these causes. In this vein, as Chair of the Development Committee, I am pleased that the EU institutions recently adopted the Global Europe Instrument, reaffirming European actions to promote good governance, sustainable development and economic growth.
The COVAX mechanism, providing developing countries vaccine against the COVID-19 virus confirms Europe’s global responsibility and exemplifies how partnership with third countries can be mutually beneficial.
The EU is the world’s largest donor of development aid.
That gives us the financial and political measures to engage with third-country partners in efforts to eradicate poverty and corruption, improve the respect for rule of law and fundamental rights, including sexual and reproductive rights to ensure sustainable development in the developing countries.
Supporting conflict resolution, mediation mechanisms and democratic development may bring an end to hostilities and prevent new conflicts from emerging. Investments in key industries, reduction of tariffs and improving production lines can create work opportunities, which contributes to a circular migration, and reduces the desire to leave home for a better life.
We should not discuss migration without taking into account our global responsibility to address injustices and promote democratic values in the countries of origin and/or transit. Neither should we isolate migration from the discussion on development aid policies.
Efficient and effective aid, putting result before amount, will address the underlying causes of migration and reduce irregular migration to Europe.
The EU will assist far more displaced persons in third countries than we do in our common territory. In joint efforts with developing countries, we can support their sustainable and economic development and simultaneously find lasting solutions to the underlying causes of migration.