Simply within the month of November 2021, migrant boats have capsized within the central Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic, the Aegean and the English Channel.
The official demise toll on the exterior borders of the EU stands at over 1,600 to this point this yr, although acknowledged to be an enormous underestimate. On the similar time, individuals have frozen and starved to demise at EU land borders to Belarus. Most of those that have misplaced their lives seem to have achieved so on EU territory.
Individuals in search of security and safety are dying inside and throughout Europe. Whereas they’re clearly in danger themselves, on precarious boats or in forests within the winter, they’ve been portrayed as a threat to Europe that wants defending towards. The whipping up of defence narratives by connecting migration with safety dangers just isn’t new, however has not misplaced any political efficiency.
Within the case of the Poland-Belarus border, individuals on the transfer have been known as “weapons” and “hybrid threats”. The EU defines hybrid threats as a mix of techniques used to “exploit the vulnerabilities of the EU” whereas “remaining beneath the brink of formal warfare”.
In keeping with Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, migrant crossings by way of Belarus are the best risk that the EU has confronted in many years. Morawiecki says “we’re coping with a brand new sort of battle, a battle by which migrants are weapons”.
In response to this ostensible battle, Poland has additional militarised its border, finishing up mass “pushback” operations to drive migrants again into Belarus, and making a de facto rights-free zone. Medical doctors, non-governmental organisation employees and journalists are prohibited from getting into, and in consequence, we’re studying of human rights violations largely via these subjected to them.
Poland systematically breaches worldwide legislation and refugee conventions and doesn’t, in response to authorized consultants “even purport to hide its disrespect of EU asylum and migration legislation”.
This might have worsened current tensions between Poland’s authorities and the EU. Poland, together with Hungary, has lengthy been thought-about a somewhat “rogue” EU member state exhibiting indicators of democratic backsliding as a result of its failure to respect EU guidelines, the primacy of EU legislation and judicial independence.
One may suppose that forcibly pushing individuals in search of safety again into the fingers of a dictator would trigger alarm bells to ring all through Europe. And but Poland’s radical “no entry” coverage has earned assist from the EU degree. The European Fee has made clear that it stands in “solidarity with the Member States on the entrance line”.
Tweeting “when one in every of us is attacked, we’re all attacked”, the fee has proposed permitting additional discount of migrants’ rights on the border. The proposal would limit the place migrants can declare asylum to particular places on the border and permit them to be detained there for a significantly longer interval of 16 weeks.
Fee president Ursula von der Leyen has joined the hassle to show migration right into a safety risk: “Let’s name it what it’s: it is a hybrid assault to destabilise Europe.”
In a tweet, European Council president Charles Michel additionally provided “full EU solidarity with #Poland … dealing with hybrid assault from #Belarus”.
Such EU solidarity with member states, regardless of overwhelming proof of migrant rights violations, just isn’t new. Regardless of its implication in mass pushback operations, Greece, depicted as Europe’s “defend”, was lauded by Von der Leyen in spring 2020. “I’m absolutely dedicated to mobilising all the required operational assist to the Greek authorities,” she stated.
Why is the European Fee, an establishment that cherishes its picture because the EU’s humane and ethical compass, selecting to face with member state governments broadly condemned for migrant rights violations?
One attainable clarification could possibly be that the present European Fee has realised that participating in rhetorical balancing acts in issues of migration is now not politically expedient or vital. The Juncker Fee was repeatedly criticised by the likes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for being too smooth on migration. In distinction, the fee underneath Von der Leyen seems to have adopted Orbán’s name in 2019 for “a brand new fee … with a brand new method”.
Reasonably than downplaying and concealing the EU’s energetic function in making a violent and lethal migrant deterrence regime, the fee has gone on the offensive. That is exemplified within the EU’s dealing with of migration, together with EU border company Frontex’s involvement in mass pushback operations, and the financing of authoritarian regimes and militia forces in Libya to outsource border management.
What we at present see unfolding alongside the EU’s exterior borders just isn’t a collection of unlucky tragedies, however the consequence of coverage choices made within the title of defending Europe towards an imagined risk. Via its unwavering assist for Poland’s migrant rights violations, the present fee sends a sign to all those that consider that violent deterrence is the one response to precarious migration.
Whereas the demise toll on the exterior borders of the union retains rising, we see different defenders come onto the scene. Alongside the border to Belarus, strange Polish residents have begun to light up their houses with inexperienced lights at night time to sign that individuals in want are welcome to hunt shelter. In doing so, they defy the efforts of each EU member states and establishments to painting individuals on the transfer as safety threats. By providing refuge, they open their houses to not weapons, however people.
Between Could 2018 and June 2021, Maurice Stierl obtained funding from the Leverhulme Belief.
He’s additionally a member of the community "Alarm Telephone".