2020 saw a decrease in the number of migrants who entered the territory of the European Union compared to the previous years: Frontex esteems a decrease of 13% in illegal arrivals, while the disastrous evolution of air traffic in Europe suggests a reduction in the legal ones too.
During the first part of the year, the closing of borders caused by the pandemic and by the health emergency prevented the creation of wide migrant flows, while different events of the last few months led to a significant increase in disembarkations during the half year period of 2020. Indeed, if the Eastern Mediterranean saw a severe reduction in entries, going from about 13,000 illegal immigrants who arrived in Greece in September 2019 to not even 2,000 in the same period in 2020 (Frontex), that did not happen for the others routes. During the summer period it was possible to witness an increase in the number of migrants who arrived in Spain, with numbers that were never recorded in the whole 2018. The central Mediterranean route saw a growth in the number of arrivals as well, if compared to the previous year: in 2019 landings of migrants were always lower than 20,000, while in the second half of 2020 they almost reached 40,000.
Nowadays making predictions is almost impossibile, however, these numbers show that the answer to the current economic crisis has been migration for a lot of people, hoping for a better future. In fact, Italy saw the number of arrivals from Tunisia triple since the field which gave a job to almost 10% of the population, namely the travel area, had a fall of 60% (Ispi). As a result, we can expect an important growth of entry flows even in the next months. Nevertheless, this prediction is not the only challenge that the EU has to face in 2021: several problems will be inherited by the new year. Among them there is the present situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina: the fire in the refugee camp of Lipa has left almost 1,000 people without a shelter and, in the same region, it is possible to find other two thousand people who arrived through the Balkan route. Migrants are dealing with the cold winter with inadequate aid and the transfer in another camp was forbidden by the local administration. The representative of the International Organisation for Migration in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Peter van der Auverart, claimed that this is a “humanitarian catastrophe”. At the moment, Brussels is supporting the country with 3,5 million euros to overcome this situation. Nevertheless, there are still several requests of intervention from the EU, including that of Karl Popp, head of the European section of Pro Asyl, who demands the new Portuguese presidency a targeted operation for the admission and integration of migrants in the EU countries, in order to go beyond the only concession of money to the country in difficulty. A further challenge will be that of finding a common solution among the 27 member states, which should bring an answer in a cohesive and strategic way to this phenomenon by aiming at persuading the most hostile countries, which are led by conservative governments as the Visegrad Group, to implement an unitary action. Yet they are not the only ones: recently a country which is the protagonist of this historic challenge, Greece, witnessed a government reshuffle characterised by a conservative turn, especially concerning the Ministry of the Interior and that of Migration.
Facing all these difficulties, the EU enters the new year with many plans and agreements to face this phenomenon in a pandemic era. In September, Ursula Von Der Leyen announced, during her speech on the situation of the Union, the “New Pact on Migration and Asylum”. In the immediate future, the solution was that of working with the countries from which the greater flows start and implementing the repatriation policies for the rejected asylum seekers. The pact envisages the obligation of participation for all the member States, which can occur through sponsorship, outplacement or operative support, and a reinforcement of the external borders management. Along with this pact, 2020 saw a series of bilateral agreements between member States and with third States. For instance, currently Italy and Libya are in a constructive phase: on 2nd November a commission was established; it includes members of both countries and its purpose is to develop a project in response to the migration phenomenon protecting the interests of both of them. Just behind the Brexit, Paris and London signed an agreement which aims at making the crossing of the English Channel for migrants impossible. This involves a patrol reinforcement on the North-French shores, an increase of the surveillance on the coast and in the ports and an outplacement of migrants in shelters placed in the centre of the country or in any case more far away from the coast. This implies an expense of 31,4 millions for the United Kingdom. France also made an agreement with Italy, involving a reinforcement of the control and security on the French-Italian border to obstruct illegal immigration. The experimental phase of this project has begun on 10th December.
The instant response from Brussels and from several countries was to intensify controls and prevent illegal entries. However, this kind of reply is ineffective in the long-term, it is a kind of a temporary dam which won’t prevent the river from overflowing. Therefore, the European Commission announced a new plan to promote the integration of migrants in November. This was presented in the New Pact on Migration and it envisages some actions that will support social and working integration of migrants, in order to use the talents and abilities of the asylum seekers in EU in favour of the member States. After the beginning of this plan, we can hope for a 2021 that starts to build a stronger and more effective European response.
Translated by Lucica Oana Maris
Fonti consultate per il presente articolo:
[i] “After the Storm Post-pandemic trends in the southern Mediterranean”, Andrey Kortunov - Paolo Magri, ISPI Report, 12/2020;
[iii] “COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS on a New Pact on Migration and Asylum”, European Commission, 23/09/2020: https://ec.europa.eu/info/site...;