Experts are calling for changes to the European Union policy on refugees and migrants based on in-depth interviews with hundreds of displaced people.
Researchers at the University of Warwick have been conducting the interviews since September 2015 across three Mediterranean island arrival points: Kos, Malta, and Sicily. They recently presented a paper outlining the proposed policy changes.
“Current policy interventions urgently need assessing in light of unprecedented levels of migration and a catastrophic increase in deaths across the Mediterranean,” says Vicki Squire, the project leader and associate professor of international security.
More than 3,700 people are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean during 2015. Alongside these tragic developments, increasing levels of migration along the Balkan route have been met by border closures within the EU, with growing tensions exacerbating humanitarian challenges across the wider region. EU member states have struggled to adopt a unified approach to handling the issue.
Four policy changes
1. Find an alternative to detention centers
Replace deterrent border control policies with interventions that address the diverse causes of irregular migration. The findings suggests measures such as detention centers, deportation, and anti-smuggling are not effective deterrents of irregular migration, and affirm the need to address diverse migratory causes across source, neighboring, and transit regions. The researchers propose that deterrent policies are replaced by interventions that improve livelihoods and educational opportunities across source, neighboring, and transit regions.
2. Understand why people are migrating
Revise migration and protection categories to reflect the multiple reasons that people are on the move. The research indicates that there is a strong need to have a better understanding of why people become migrants.
Current protection mechanisms do not reflect the diverse forms of violence and conflict that people seek to escape, the multiplicity of sites that people flee, and the fragmented and fluid journeys involved.
The researchers propose that the categories of “forced” and “voluntary” migration are rejected in favor of diversified categories that are based on a deeper appreciation of international refugee and human rights law, and are more reflective of reality.
3. Open safe and legal routes
The team’s findings demonstrate that current search and rescue mechanisms do not address the vulnerabilities of those migrating across the central and eastern Mediterranean, and that the relationships between those migrating and those facilitating migration are diverse and often ambiguous. They support calls to open safe and legal routes to the EU and to improve reception conditions and facilities at all arrival points across the EU, to ensure that human rights and international protection obligations are met in full.
4. Give people better information when they arrive
Squire and her team concluded that migrants should be provided with better information. They found that new arrivals have little understanding and information on procedural processes and reception conditions either before or after entering the EU.
They propose the development of rights-oriented information campaigns that mobilize social networks in order to offer clear and accurate information on admission and asylum processes across neighboring, transit, and arrival regions.
The policy suggestions are the result of an on-going three year project, which is in its first year and is part of the wider Mediterranean Migration Research Programme, launched by the Economic and Social Research Council in September. That effort will fund social scientists across eight institutions who will conduct research with migrant and refugee populations entering Europe across the Mediterranean.
“EU Member States have struggled to adopt a unified approach to handling the issue. It is in this context that the European Agenda on Migration, proposed in 2015, needs to be reviewed. Our research produces a timely and robust evidence base as grounds for informing policy interventions,” says Squire.
The analysis will be developed in phase 2 of the project to capture changing migratory dynamics and to deepen the understanding of policy effects. This briefing will be supplemented by further papers and organized events in November 2016 and again in the spring/summer of 2017.
Source: University of Warwick