The EU’s refugee double standard

The scaremongering tactics perpetuated by the right-wing in the EU regarding migrants and refugees boil down to two observations dissociated from the historical and political ramifications: that migrants will keep coming, and that Europe has no space to accommodate them. However, who and what created refugees is a question that EU leaders prefer to ignore.

Italy's Deputy PM Matteo Salvini attends the swearing in ceremony of the new government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at Palazzo del Quirinale on 1 June 2018 in Rome. (Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images)Since the spat between Italy and Malta over the fate of the 629 migrants stranded on board the Aquarius vessel, the EU has been seeking purported solutions that have more to do with pushing migrants back to their countries of departure or origin, than with implementing a system that will safeguard their human rights.

The options have ranged from increasing surveillance and militarisation of the Mediterranean, to criminalising the act of seeking refuge, thus ensuring that the EU does not have to contend with either the presence of refugees, or the tragedy of their deaths at sea. If their human rights are violated elsewhere, it is of no concern to the bloc, or so it would have us believe.

However, the EU has played its part in creating refugees, notably through the earlier colonial exploitation in Africa and, more recently, by giving support to foreign intervention in North Africa and the Middle East. Consider, for instance, Libya’s current deterioration as an unacknowledged failed state following NATO intervention in 2011 — a move championed by the EU as ‘bringing democracy’.

Since Libya became overtly known as a hub for trafficking, abuse and exploitation of migrants, the EU suggested, in 2015, that smuggler routes should be bombed to prevent refugees from crossing the Mediterranean by boat. Since then, the EU has spoken about combating human trafficking as a phenomenon dissociated from the consequences of NATO’s intervention in Libya. This led to the branding of NGOs involved in search and rescue operations as trafficking aides, thus absolving countries and, indeed, the bloc, of abdicating its responsibilities.

Yet the politics of invading countries and those that tacitly approved of intervention have perpetrated a problem where each component is intrinsically linked, despite working to achieve different aims. The EU uses rhetoric of alleged differences between refugees fleeing from war and economic migrants, despite both facing similar situations due to the political contexts. Read more.

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