Something rotten in the migration compact 2.0 of Matteo Renzi?

Left to right: Renzi, Juncker, Hollande, Trudeau, Merkel et al at the G7 summit in Japan, May, 2016. Carolyn Kaster / Press Association. All rights reserved.The European
Institutions and the Governments of the Member States pretend to be deeply
concerned by the rise of far-rights movements in the Union: but this is only
posturing and opportunism. Declaring themselves appalled by their xenophobia
and their hostility against migrants and refugees, the truth is quite
different. No special acumen is needed to understand this. Since last year,
European and national policies on immigration are incorporating and emulating
the positions of the far-right, without any noticeable reservations. 

The slogans of Marine
Le Pen and Matteo Salvini – “help the refugees in their own homes”, “expulse
them all together” – uttered without once considering the reasons that lead
migrants to flee – do not any more boast their exclusive hallmark. They have
become the foundation-stone of European policies in this field. The Austrian
government, when it decided to close its borders – again today proposing
relegation of refugees to the Greek or Italian islands, following the
Australian model – have already signed up to the slogans of Norbert Hofer’s
party.

“Migration compact
2.0” as proposed by Prime Minister Renzi, and broadly approved by the European
institutions and by the Commission who proposed a similar plan on June 7,
expresses precisely the same views: let’s help them in their own homes, mostly
in Africa but also in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran, since the majority of
asylum seekers and migrants originate from there. The EU-Turkey deal, agreed on
March 7, represents the role model. It provides for a disbursement of funds for
six billion euros to be paid in two tranches.

The Agreement (called
in a meanly calculating manner “statement”, in order to bypass the approval of
the European Parliament, always required when international treaties are at
stake) is considered dangerous and potentially illegitimate by the UNHCR,
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch: because its forced and collective
returns towards Turkey violate the Geneva Convention and the EU Charter of
Fundamental Rights (principle of non-refoulement)) according to which
any asylum application has to be examined individually and not on the basis of belonging
to a specific ethnic group or nation; because Turkey itself returns a
considerable number of the migrants to the same war zones from whence (Syria)
they had fled, without hesitating to shoot at Syrian fugitives who wish to
reach Turkey.

Because Turkey has
ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees, but with specific geographical
limitations, so that Ankara is not committed to the protection of non-European
refugees. In fact, Turkey has not ratified the Protocol of New York of 1967 which
removed the previous restrictions to the recognition of refugee status,
reserved until that date only for those who sought protection and asylum following events
occurring before 1 January 1951. In other
words, the state led by Erdoğan is not a “safe country”.

Anyway, the deal could
collapse since, in exchange, Ankara has not yet obtained visa liberalisation
for its citizens. It's Ankara who dictates the terms of the deal, not the
European Union who badly needs the deal with Turkey. 

This is the reason why
the “statement” is deemed excellent by Italy and by the EU institutions.
Indeed, following the suggestions made in “Migration Compact 2.0”, it is
becoming the prototype for further agreements with a series of African states,
as the best solution for dealing with the refugees’ issue.

Here are the four main
objectives of the plan:

1) Development aid
policies and economic cooperation shall be vigorously recommenced, but in
strict – and extremely questionable – relation to borders and migrants’
management and in connection with generically identified security issues.
Putting all these issues together is profoundly controversial from the point of
view of international law.

2)  Priority shall be given to 16 “strategic partners”: Algeria, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger,
Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia. Here comes the outrageous part of
the proposal: the drafters of the “Migration compact” do not raise any concerns
about the infringements of fundamental rights and the principle of non-refoulement that are taking place in
some of those countries, such as Eritrea, Sudan, Libya, and even Mali, Ethiopia,
Somalia.

3)  Already, as of the European Council of 28-29 June, it is expected
that an “extraordinary plan” will be adopted, also as suggested by the Italian
government, which envisages agreements with seven “pilot-countries”: four
countries of origin (Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal), two transit
countries (Niger, Sudan) and one country of origin and transit (Ethiopia). This
will represent the springboard for the new idea of development aid, providing
for investments in social projects and infrastructures while making them
subject to very stringent and “specific obligations” in the fields of
military-police cooperation and the control of migratory flows, regardless of
their nature, whether economic, political or environmental.

4)  Finally, the issue of financing. The text refers to a sort of
Juncker plan for Africa, on the basis that it has worked well for the EU (which
it has not): the Union would make
available 4.5 billion euros from its own budget as an incentive to private and
public investments amounting to 60 billion euros.

These are
the key elements of a plan that the Italian Government has  been backing for a long time and that the
Commission and the European partners (with Hungary leading the way) seem to
appreciate. It's a development which actually has quite a long backstory. The
turning point was the press conference held by the Commissioner for Migration,
Dimitris Avramopoulos, during which he, breaking a taboo, affirmed: “[…] the fact that we cooperate
in the framework of the Khartoum and Rabat process with dictatorial regimes,
does not mean we do not legalise them. […] We do not give them
legitimacy, democratic and political legitimacy. But we have to cooperate in
the field where we have decided to combat smuggling and trafficking
[…]”.

This
declaration has been followed by an escalation of “moments of truth” regarding European
governance. The peak was reached on 25 January 2016 during an informal Council
meeting of the Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs held in Amsterdam. Théo
Francken, Belgian Secretary
of State for migration, responding to a
declaration made by his Greek counterpart Ioannis Mouzalas the day after to the
BBC, would have suggested the following: “Push back migrants, even if that
means drowning them”. The Belgian Minister has denied the statement. Mouzalas
has repeatedly confirmed it.

Moreover, it is worth mentioning the declarations made by the highest
representative of the European Council, the President Donald Tusk. I will quote
some of them:

– 13 October 2015, letter to the colleagues of the European Council. He
expressed openness towards Turkey (including support for the establishment of
“safe zones” in Syria) and concern about open borders: “The exceptionally easy
access to Europe is one of the main pull factors (for the influx of refugees)
”.
He made no reference to other reasons that can prompt the flight of refugees:
wars caused or intensified by western countries, fierce dictatorship, mass
expulsions of Eritreans by Sudan, environmental disasters and hunger provoked
by the investments and extensive land-grabbing made by western enterprises.

– 22
October 2015, speech made during the Convention of the European People’s Party
in Madrid:  “We cannot pretend any longer that the great tide of migrants is something
that we want, and that we are conducting a well thought-out policy of open
borders”.

– 3 March
2016, appeal to all
potential illegal economic migrants: “Do not come to Europe. Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives
and your money. It's all for nothing
”. I recall that the same
phrase (It is all for nothing) was
used in 2014 by the Australian government, one of the most criticised and cruel
states as far as the migration and asylum policy is concerned.

“Migration compact 2.0”, together with similar proposals coming from Hungarian
Prime Minister Orbán, represents a further stage in this steady
escalation. Some days ago, on the eve of the G7 summit, Martin Selmayr, Head of
Juncker’s cabinet, twitted: “#G7 2017 with Trump, Le
Pen, Boris Johnson, Beppe Grillo? A horror scenario that shows well why it is
worth fighting populism. #withJuncker
.

Equating those names is a scam which was assuredly very much
appreciated by Renzi, in light of the upcoming administrative elections in
Italy and of the constitutional referendum which will take place in five
months' time.

Above all, a fundamental question still remains: if it is important
to fight against Le Pen and the far-right, why are we pursuing exactly their policies
through EU-directives, agreements, statements, and the Migration Compact of Mr.
Renzi? 

 

This article originally appeared in Italian in il Fatto Quotidiano on June 6, 2016

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