Really a good idea? EC to propose refugee quotas as part of a new migration policy

In general, what do you think about the idea regarding quotas for immigrants for the EU countries?  Do you think it might really help somehow? Many countries, including Slovakia, are opposing the idea of sharing the number of immigrants, they are also arguing that we can not send immigrants somewhere they do not want to go. Read few comments.

Lorenzo NannettiInternational Affairs Analyst

The problem is not really those 25,000 migrants that are under discussion now. Italy has got around 170,000 migrants last year, probably will get around 200,000 this year. We could take those 25,000 all by ourselves if they were the only ones. But numbers are higher, considering the flows and future arrivals, and no country can take all of them alone. So yes, in my opinion sharing is a good idea – of course keep in mind I’m Italian and see this from our perspective, and I understand that Slovaks may see it differently. Also it’s true that many would like to go to Germany or Scandinavia and not Slovakia, for example – at the same time either a EU-wide sharing system is set up or some countries would use this as an excuse to say no. In absolute terms, 200,000 people are not so many. It’s 0,3 % of the Italian population for example, imagine sharing them over the whole of Europe proportionately with population. Numbers become really small. But Europe generally has poor or no integration policies, so their inclusion is surely a problem for many countries, both from a cost and social perspective. and still, it could be the way to prompt countries and the whole of EU to frame better policies.

However, migration problem isn’t solved with these quotas. These can help share the burden, but the migration issue starts in Africa and has to be controlled there. Illicit networks, instability, conflict economic issues and climate change problems are all triggers that send migrants north. If these are not controlled, people will just continue to go north.

I’m linking you an article I’ve written (in Italian), with some graphs. First map depicts the main cities that will see more growth of young people up to 2025 (most of those are listed in 2nd column of the table by McKinsey). Second map sees the major spots of instability (conflict mainly) currently existing. Combination builds up to show places that will see increased strain and therefore will remain major migration starting points. Then you see two maps about major smuggling routes, both for people and goods. This gives an idea of how complex the issue is and that quotas in Europe don’t change what is happening there, where the true causes are.

Giacomo OrsiniResearch Student, Department of Sociology, University of Essex

Concerning the quota system, I am not sure it constitutes any priority to answer somehow efficiently to the actual ‘crisis’. It looks to me as rather a tactic to turn a very operational issue into a political one. I’m personally not a fan of any quota system, because of the issue you also mentioned, as far as it limits personal lives in light of major political negotiations. Imagine the paradoxical situation in which a refugee who wants to join his/her family in Slovakia is instead obliged to go to Germany because of the quotas, while at the same time the exact opposite might be happening – with one who wants to go to Germany and is instead obliged to go to Slovakia. It does not make sense and it does not help humanizing refugees and migrants: they will remain a ‘burden’ for society.

It looks to me that member states that are using the ‘quota argument’ – such as, for instance, Italy – are doing it more or less intentionally to deal with an organizational problem in more political terms. The issue is quite simple in my eyes: with a quota system in place, Italy – for instance – should keep many more people in its territory than it actually does. Northern European countries know that they receive and accept far many more asylum applications each year than Southern European countries do.

Yet, if what happens at the border is framed in terms of quota, member states’ public opinions will more easily divide and contest – no matter which final strategy will be adopted. Thus, the attention will move away from the actual border dynamics and the situation will not be faced nor it will be solved. As I already told you, since people arriving are asylum seekers, humanitarian corridors or the possibility to apply for asylum in the EU at any EU embassy or consulate, will save EU taxpayers’ money and migrants’ lives at once. This, without considering as those crossing the maritime border undocumented are about the 1% of those residing illegally in the EU.

However, by not dealing with the issue in realistic/data-informed way allows to maintain costly military operation in place, while countries such as Italy and UK will have a good reason/argument to sell to the public the possible military intervention in Libya. If you had the opportunity to follow the recent chronicles of what it is going on in the North African country, you will realize as Italian very important gas and oil plants have decreased sensibly their production: Italy takes the 10% of its energy from the country, and ENI extract over the 30% of the country resources. The situation is escaping from control, and they need to intervene and secure the installations. Now they have a good argument to convince the public opinion that they have to.

Christian KaunertProfessor of International Politics, University of Dundee

In the EU, the discussion has been very long and tiresome about burden-sharing. I don’t think this will materialise anytime soon, notably because countries, maybe like Slovakia, but also many others, do not want to increase their costs.

I also think the physical re-distruibution is unlikely, but they might talk about people who are not in Europe yet, and would get a chance to get into an EU country that they otherwise could not go to. In those case, it could work. More likely though, a re-distribution of funds could be organised.

I am not very optimistic that this can be easily agreed though…

David Fernández RojoAssistant in the Research Team “European Integration”, University of Deusto

In general terms, I can tell you that the quota idea it is not going to work. The European Commission has already said that it will not go against the core principles of the EU. Specifically, the introduction of quotas goes against the free movement of people and thereby the raison the être of the EU.

On the other hand, the idea of sharing immigrants seems unlikely. Firstly, immigrants are not a commodity that you can trade between Member States. Secondly, immigrants enjoy “factual free movement” once they enter one Member State. Lastly, efforts should shift towards aiding those Member States that suffer more migratory pressure. This help should come from the EU (enhancing Asylum system and border mechanisms) as well as from Member States.

Finally, Slovakia is right. There is the principle of non-refoulement outwards and, of course, inwards.

Gabriele IacovinoResponsabile Analisti, Ce.S.I. – Centro Studi Internazionali

The EU project about migrants quota is one possible answer to the actual humanitar crisis. EU cannot consider the migrants problem as an issue only retrograding countries where people arrive. This is an humanitarian issue and European countries not directly involved with the migrants arrival cannot just turn their eyes away. We are going to see an epochal migration from Africa and if we will not act together with an instant answer to the actual situation and with a strategic plan to support the economic and social situation of Africa country, we are going just to undergo to an historic change. Moreover the actual migrants situation is also a security issue. What about if not mediterranean European countries would need help for a threat coming from East? Should they ask for help also from other countries?

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