Realities & Responses

How is it possible that thousands of people drown every year in the Mediterranean Sea, while the protection of individual life is a core value in Europe’s self-perception? How do European immigration policies and practises impact on Africa? What are the reasons why young people from coastal Senegal decide to leave their home? Why is it that so many Colombians are migrants to the Canary Islands, what should be done to help them in their situation? What are the specific political conditions under which refugees and undocumented migrants have to live in Germany, and what do they do to oppose their manifold discrimination?

Migration into Europe is a multifaceted issue with a deep impact on European and African societies, as well as cutting across virtually all social fields, from the labour market to health issues to questions of national or European identity. Yet equally varied are the responses by the people directly affected.

Policies & Impacts

The agreement between Italy and Libya coming into force in May 2009 has put the issue of border and migration policies back at the centre of European public attention. Among others, the treaty includes joint Libyan-Italian patrols in Libyan waters and commits Libya to step up efforts and increase heavily investments against irregular migration flows through its territory. But is this agreement a first step towards cooperation in the interest of the people concerned, or rather increasing the suffering for undocumented migrants?

More generally, the issue of migration from the South into Europe extends beyond bilateral diplomacy, and also beyond the daily drama in the (Central) Mediterranean. Policy fields such as the labour market or the role of the European Union can be mentioned in this respect. Besides causing the humanitarian failures of the border management, within and beyond the EU’s borders, the continued security orientation of migration policy weakens the rare examples of partnership and cooperation.

Critical Perspectives

The Line

Frontex is of the devil, migration only knows victims, and Europe –we all know it- is a fortress. Quick conclusions and half-cooked criticism of migration and border policies in Europe are not hard to come by. But it does not help to reproduce well-meaning but misguided claims, especially if the aim is to change the status quo.

Thus, looking a bit more closely, one could find some new insights: the EU shares more features with a gated community, its border regime function more akin to a network firewall. It would show that Frontex is not Homeland Security, but nevertheless significantly impacting Europe’s institutional landscape. It could reveal that migration and migrants’ struggles have a deeper impact on the constitution of European societies than superficially assumed. And it could point to ways in which the fate of those “liminal people” could store perspectives for a continent truly without borders.