Giant migrant city in Libya? Really?

As Hungary PM Viktor Orbán suggests giant migrant city in Libya, how this could work. How do you see this idea? Is it just a populist proposal or maybe there is something rational about this? Read few comments.

Andrew Geddes, Professor, Department of Politics, Co-Director, Social Sciences Migration Research Group, University of Sheffield

The idea itself is not new. For over a decade European governments have considered this idea of creating camps outside of the EU for refugees as a way to stop people moving to Europe. It’s also accurate to say that this idea of moving the issue outside of the EU remains a very important aspect of the EU response. Australia has been doing it for a long time too with it’s so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ but there have been terrible human rights abuses that have called Australia’s programme into question.

Orban’s idea about a gigantic refugee city in Libya is much more specific and also much more problematic. The proposal is based on Orban’s idea that EU member states should have ‘total control’ over their borders, although what he means are the EU’s external borders and not the internal borders of the Schengen area. Orban sees Schengen open borders as a good thing and supports Hungarians being able to move freely in the EU. The kind of ‘total control’ that Orban wants over non-EU migration would be enormously costly and require close cooperation with the Libyan government, but Orban himself recognises that there is no credible state authority in Libya. This makes his plan very difficult to implement without even thinking about the the cost. Also, if there were credible government Libya, it seems likely that they might see hosting hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees as a potentially destabilising element in their fragile country.

At no point does Orban’s proposal seem to consider the well being of displaced people. It’s possible that camps that allow people to stay closer to their home country with schools, health care and employment opportunities could be a good idea, but that doesn’t seem to be the plan here. Rather this looks like an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ idea based on hostility to non-EU migrants and refugees.

Angeliki Dimitriadi, Research Fellow, Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)

It is a ludicrous idea at best.

It is mimicking the Australian Pacific Solution policy, adapted to the geographical context of the EU-African migratory flows. The Australian example is not a viable one for many reasons. Australia receives roughly 7000 migrants annually. Geography (and difficulty in access) allows for lower numbers. And of course the Australian policy can hardly be considered humanitarian!  It is simply not possible considering the current chaos in Libya, but also the complexity of migratory flows to Europe. It is also not necessarily financially sound. What would be the cost and for how long? Who would shoulder it?

Unfortunately though, the broader direction right now is to outsource as much as possible the responsibility to third countries of transit and origin and the Hungarian’s PM proposal is simply an extreme version of this.

The issue of concern is how much of the “burden sharing” realistically can these third countries undertake. We should consider that some of them rely heavily on migration and remittances, many are particularly fragile politically, and perhaps more importantly the EU cannot in fact guarantee that human rights will be respected ( and this especially true in relation to Libya). We do need cooperation with countries of origin and transit and we do need to assist them in developing capacity but Placing migrants “out of sight out of mind” does not address the issue.

Christian KaunertProfessor of International Politics, Director of the European Institute for Security and Justice, University of Dundee

In principle, the idea of externalising asylum applications is very old. Tony Blair made a suggestion already in 2003! But there are too many legal and political obstacles, which is why it has never been introduced. The suggestion about Libya is of course not reasonable and mainly populist. That would just become a breeding ground for ISIS and would become a security risk.

Nando SigonaSenior Lecturer, Deputy Director, Institute for Research into Superdiversity, University of Birmingham

The proposal of creating a safe territory for refugees is not new and has come also from respectable academics, see. It is an idea that has also some historical precedents (see UN protectorates). The problem is political, economic and of security. In other words: Who would be in charge of governing the territory (there are of course differences if we are talking of a city in a state or an independent territory)? Who would ensure the safety and security of residents and the rule of law? How would residents survive (ie livelihoods and creation of an economy)?

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