The EU is actively looking at ways to move migrants away from its borders and outsource the solution of the migration problem to other countries and international organisations.
The immediate mechanism to be discussed the June 28-29 European Council are the so-called disembarkation platforms is the major bait at the EUCO summit to take place today and tomorrow in Brussels.
In a letter sent to the EU leaders the president of the European Council Donald Tusk says the disembarkation platforms outside of the EU have to
break the business model of the smugglers, as this is the most effective way to stop the flows and bring an end to the tragic loss of lives at sea”.
The idea behind it is to build in the North African coastal states centres where migrants saved at sea on their way to Europe, will be returned without reaching their final destination. The boats directed to Europe won’t be offloaded any more at the continent’s shores, saving the first line EU states the pain of dealing with the migrants.
Our main point will be to break the smugglers model. Once the boats stop coming to Europe, there will be no more reason for people paying them”, one senior EU official explained.
It is unclear however if the EU will allow migrants in these disembarkation platforms to claim asylum protection as the current EU legislation only provides for application to be filed on the Union’s territory. According the European Commission these migrants could be subject only to the international resettlement and asylum schemes. Only those who manage to land on European territory would be able to claim for protection in the EU.
The official declined comment if the migrants are going to stay indefinitely in these centres since as the current EU legislation does not provide for filing asylum claims from outside of the Union’s territory, the time provisions for such procedures won’t apply. The EU would need to redirect people in the disembarkation centres to different programs for protection or returns in cooperation of the UN agencies for migration and refugees (UNHCR and IOM) and the authorities in the host countries.
The idea for the disembarkation platforms anyway originates from the UNHCR, the EU official said, adding Brussels is already in contact with the agencies.
According to the Commission’s analysis prepared for the summit, the current EU regulation allows for people rescued in international and in non-EU waters to be send to such disembarkation platforms outside of Europe and only those found on the EU soil or waters should be dealt in the EU.
The EU is already working with the two UN agencies in Africa, subcontracting the first one to deal with the refugees and the second – with economic migrants, their returns and professional orientation. The EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini spoke with the UNHCR’s high commissioner Filippo Grandi and with Lacy Swing, the Director General of IOM already on Tuesday June 26 to discuss the possible involvement of the two organisations in the new endeavour.
The EU senior official insisted the “disembarkation platforms will not be camps” and won’t be similar to the hot-spots in Italy and Greece where migrants are currently kept until identified. However he said more time and talks with the countries willing to accept such centres will be needed to clear the concept of how exactly they will look like. The summit the EU leaders on June 28-29 will be asked to green-light the development of the concept together with the North African countries.
The EU official referred to the deal the EU sealed with Turkey back in 2016. Brussels agreed to pay Ankara 6 billion euro over 4 years if Turkey stops the migrant flow to the Greek Aegean islands. Since March 2016 the decline of migrant crossings is 97%, with about 2000 migrants sent back from Greece to Turkey and 13 000 Syrian refugees resettled from Turkey to the EU since the start of the agreement.
However other sources from the European Commission and the EU diplomatic service EEAS are suggesting a different model for the disembarkation platforms – the one used for the vulnerable refugees in Libya who are currently send to Niger and from there to Europe. Niger has already received over 1408 people from Libya of which 108 have been resettled to Europe. Another 28 000 migrants have voluntary returned home over the last two years with the assistance of IOM.
The EU Summit will determine which vision will prevail, if any, however the alternative could be the closure of all borders between Germany, Austria, France and Italy to stem the secondary movements of migrants trying to reach the wealthier Northern European countries.
“We only can work on a systemic solution, otherwise the politics will overtake us”, the senior EU official said, underlining there is a global shift in the approach to migration phenomenon which Europe cannot passively observe.