The European Union’s migration policy: support for dictatorships to the south of the Mediterranean

While protest movements are developing against dictatorial regimes in northern Africa and the Middle East, the statements and actions by European governments show that the «defence of democracy» and «non-interference» are mere rhetoric when it is a matter of reaffirming the necessity of a closure of borders that undermines fundamental rights.

Thus, while the Libyan armed forces are massacring rebels throughout the country, coronel Qadafi brandishes the spectre of a migratory invasion by threatening European states of putting an end to any «cooperation in the field of the fight against irregular immigration» if the European Union continues to «encourage» the popular demonstrations. The EU, through the words of its High Representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, claims that it does not want to give in to blackmail [1] at the same time as European bodies continued to negotiate, less than a week ago, Libyan participation in their policy to secure the Mediterranean space.

After the fall of the dictatorship in Tunisia, a few thousand Tunisian migrants who arrived on the island of Lampedusa (Italy) have in fact been portrayed as a threat against which the EU must defend itself by mobilising its allies in northern Africa. These declarations and these diplomatic manœuvres have yet again provided proof that «fortress Mediterranean» has to be defended disregarding the aspirations of populations and principles (liberties, democracy, human rights...) which were nonetheless presented as the foundations of the construction of the EU. Now, while demonstrators in northern Africa and the Middle East are struggling against police ascendancy, the European states respond through securitarian measures. In particular, the EU promises to release money to help Tunisia to control its borders and stop its nationals from enacting their «right to leave any country including their own» (art. 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

In doing so, the EU and its member states hope that the international agreements which undermine human rights that the dictators have signed will be taken up again by the new regimes. Well, since the start of the 2000s, this policy of subcontracting the surveillance of European borders has played a role in a veritable war against migrants. It is at the core of the EU’s diplomacy to such an extent, that several of its member states have been upset by the collapse of regimes that they had been arming for several years [2]. It is this policy which has led to thousands of migrants, while they sought to avoid patrols and other military mechanisms, dying in the Mediterranean, while tens of thousands of others were detained in camps in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia... Today, these weapons, often provided or funded by European states, are turned against the Libyan people which is struggling for its freedoms.

While the member states as a whole are tempted to align themselves with the Italian position and «not to interfere in the transition process which is underway in the Arab world (...) particularly in Libya (...)», it is urgent to recall that the EU is facing a historic situation. Respect for its foundational principles imposes that it ceases to support the regimes whose attacks against the rights of their own populations are heightened by their use as border guards at the service of member states and in contempt of the rights of migrants.

European migration policies which generate injustice, growing inequalities, arbitrary measures, racism and xenophobia must stop in order to open a new era in the relations between the European Union and its Mediterranean neighbours.

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