Sunday, 17 January 2021

UN in your language

“Nobody puts their kids on a boat, unless the water is safer than the land”

SYrian refugee woman. Photo UNHCRnsp 42

Mr Francois Crepeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants spoke at a press conference today in Brussels 

Mr Crepeau presented his findings from his annual report to the Human Rights Council on the management of the external borders of the European Union and its impact on the human rights of migrants.

Mr Crepeau opened by saying, “the status quo is unsustainable in the long term”. He added that the borders are porous, “and democratic borders even more so“; by trying to seal these borders we just end up creating an underground market for smugglers.

More than 200,000 migrants and asylum seekers arrived in Europe by sea in 2014, compared with 80,000 in 2013 (according to current estimates). So far this year, Europe has received over 100,000 migrants and asylum seekers who have arrived by boat, with some frontline states reporting daily arrivals. 

“Now, do we want to manage the situation, or let smugglers manage it? Managing the situation is simply called resettlement. It is not difficult technically – it is difficult only politically”, stated Mr Crepeau.

The Special Rapporteur further stressed, “to avoid smuggling, we need to bank on mobility, it’s by investing in mobility that we can undercut the market for smugglers. If we want to control mobility, we must incentivise the migrants to come to the border guards and not the smugglers. Governments should offer mobility solutions that are better and cheaper than the solutions provided by smugglers, that’s how you outcompete someone in a market.”

He further argued that we should bank on regulated mobility and not on closure because “closure simply doesn’t work; by closing borders in the name of controlling the borders, we have actually lost control of the borders.”

Mr Crepeau

Mr Crepeau welcomed the EU agenda on migration, calling it a “very good first step” with many elements “that are pointing in the right direction”. “There’s many shortcomings in the agenda as well”, he added, “but I surmise, as many commentators have done, that this is only the first step.”

The Special Rapporteur said that his views on economic migration could be best summarized in the words of a Somali poet who claimed “nobody puts their kids on a boat, unless the water is safer than the land”.  He explained that “The drivers of this migration are not the same as those of expats; expats have options, these people don’t have options, they come to Europe because there is nothing at home. So if we think we are going to deter them by violence or by the barriers we put up, we’re not. What we end up doing is entrenching the smuggling operation; making them more powerful, making them more costly in lives and in money.”

Mr Crepeau also challenged the current political discourse that, according to him, has been handed over to populist arguments.

“We have allowed the nationalist movement to dictate the debate. We need to challenge that debate, and look at the facts. Migrant’s don’t take jobs, they don’t bring disease, they are an asset to society, they are resilient, and they are mobile”, said Crepeau, as he called for multiple entry visas which would give people the opportunity to return home without the fear of never being able to return.

The Special Rapporteur called on the EU to establish a human rights-based, coherent and comprehensive migration policy, which makes mobility its central asset. “It is the only way in which it can reclaim its border, effectively combat smuggling and empower migrants,” the Special Rapporteur said. “We need to legalize, regulate, and tax. Prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking alcohol, and the US mafia thrived. By legalizing the market, regulating it and taxing it, control was regained.”

“Only thus can the EU take away the mobility market from the hands of the smugglers. Open and regulated mobility at all skills levels is where the investment should be,” Mr. Crepeau stressed.  

“Finally”, the special rapporteur concluded, “we need to hear the voice of the migrants, all migration policies are being made by citizens, for citizens, and migrants are seldom consulted. We are not hearing their voice because we citizens couldn’t care less. The pressure to do something is not there, we are very happy about the price of tomatoes. I’ll leave it at that” 

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