Migration in the EU: We Need Leadership, Not Walls

Migrants travel on an inflatable boat to reach the Greek island of Kos as Turkish coast guards (not pictured) try to stop the
Migrants travel on an inflatable boat to reach the Greek island of Kos as Turkish coast guards (not pictured) try to stop them, early on August 19, 2015, near the shore of Bodrum, southwest Turkey. The UN refugee agency said in the last week alone, 20,843 migrants -- virtually all of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq -- arrived in Greece, which has seen around 160,000 migrants land on its shores since January, according to the UN refugee agency. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Europe is facing what's already one of the 21st century's worst human tragedies. The humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, which this year alone encompasses the rescue of more than 188,000 floundering migrants on their way to Europe, has failed to move some of the EU's political leaders. The most recent developments in Calais and the Greek islands of Samos and Kos, which have been completely overwhelmed by the daily arrival of hundreds of migrants and the lack of a system to take them in, are yet another sign of this lack of empathy. These tragedies remind us that the EU urgently needs a completely new migration and asylum system.

Last week, the European Commission took an important step forward by approving a €2.4 billion package until 2020 that intends to assist member countries dealing with high migratory flows. Some States, however, are placing hurdles in the way: A few days before the Commission announced this measure, David Cameron and Francois Hollande opposed the proposals of Jean- Claude Juncker, the Commission's president, which included setting up fairer relocation procedures for asylum seekers who reached Greece and Italy. Fortunately, the United Kingdom and France are now aware of the necessity of proposing a European perspective to deal with the situation in Calais. Now then, this solution requires an equitable distribution so that each country can take responsibility for a number of asylum seekers. It also requires a firm commitment to tackle the roots of this complex crisis.

Politicians in France and the United Kingdom, along with many others, have condemned the plans of Hungarian President, Viktor Orban, who wanted to build a four-meter wall in the border with Serbia to prevent the arrival of immigrants. And yet, fearful of the criticisms of local nationalists -who are always willing to exploit the misery of others to further their political goals--the French and British governments are planning to raise a wall of their own in Calais. It's amazing that today some people still think that building walls can be a solution for Europe. Instead of building useless walls that further divide us, the United Kingdom and France should work together to process asylum applications and provide humanitarian assistance for those who need it. Both countries have the necessary means to do more and to help asylum seekers in Calais.

Instead of building useless walls that further divide us, the United Kingdom and France should work together to process asylum applications and provide humanitarian assistance for those who need it.

The deaths in Calais and the current humanitarian crisis affecting many of the EU's States prove that the existing asylum and migration system is inadequate. This system, which is based on the Dublin Regulation, pressures EU countries that have external borders, since it forces the first State to receive a migrant to process the asylum application.

We need to replace the Dublin Regulation with a European protocol of central asylum, one that assigns a home for refugees in a more balanced manner, and one that, of course, reinforces the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). This new European focus should promote a greater degree of solidarity between EU States. Moreover, it should ensure the compliance of international commitments regarding refugees and people who are fleeing persecution and armed conflicts.

On the other hand, it is also necessary to design and implement -as soon as possible-- a new European policy that contemplates more legal and safer routes for economic migration to Europe. This would help reduce irregular migratory flows and contribute to secure, better conditions in order to deal with demographic challenges and the requirements of a changing job market. A step forward in that direction would be to extend the blue card system to cover both skilled and unskilled workers.

It is also necessary to design and implement -as soon as possible-- a new European policy that contemplates more legal and safer routes for economic migration to Europe.

We need more vigorous measures to face the irregular migration, strengthening Frontex and managing appropriate return and readmission mechanisms. Also, we need to make an effort to ask for reforms in the countries where the migrants are coming from, since that's where we'll find the causes of the migratory flows. We can't keep turning a blind eye to the political repression that is ruining the lives of so many young people in Africa and the Middle East. Development aid from the EU ought to be subjected to stricter conditions in order to incentivize good governance and political reform.

There is no single and no simple solution to the so-called migratory crisis. This growing humanitarian problem requires political leadership and a comprehensive European focus: we can't succumb to the nationalists, point fingers, or raise walls.

This post originally ran on HuffPost Spain and has been translated from Spanish.