Understanding the crises induced by irregular migration and the proposed frameworks to mitigate them.
As of June 2022, at least 100 million people had been forced to escape their homes due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, or events substantially disrupting public order around the world. Nearly 32.5 million of them are refugees. They frequently brave perilous travels to safety, putting their lives and freedom at stake. While refugees leave conflict and persecution, others, referred to as economic migrants, flee poverty, starvation, and a lack of opportunities.
The motivation behind migration comes from seeking opportunities for the long-term growth of both the migrants and their communities. However, migrations for refuge put strains on receiving countries that may lack the capacity to give help on their own. But, if mass migration can be handled well it can provide enormous benefits in the form of skills, labour force strengthening, better investment opportunities, and cultural diversity, among other things.
The issue of managing migration has expanded considerably over the last few decades, as various economic, political, social, and environmental causes have led an increasing number of individuals to leave their homeland.
REGULAR AND IRREGULAR MIGRATION
Migration can be described as regular or irregular. Most migratory movements are regular; they occur legally via regulatory channels and legal means. In contrast, irregular migration happens when a person enters, stays, or works in a nation without the requisite authorisation or documentation required by immigration laws. Regular migration is usually induced by factors such as the desire for better economic or educational opportunities, and family reunification. Causes behind irregular migration have been identified as fleeing from crises, and due to climate change or natural disasters. Putting aside the legal aspect, irregular migration also poses a significant threat to life as they are done via unsafe, disorderly, and unregulated travel methods. As a result, thousands of migrants have died or gone missing along risky migratory routes, and more have been victims of migrant smuggling and human trafficking.
In reaction to the increase in irregular migration, several countries are turning to border control as a solution, blocking ports of entry to discourage entry. It is true that effective border management policies and tools aid in the prevention of irregular migration, can dismantle organised criminal networks, and protect migrants’ rights, but border control may not be the best solution. Human rights organisations are now asking governments to approach migration holistically, seeking to capitalise on its potential to enhance economies while also addressing the hazards of the process and the causes that drive people out of their country.
MIGRATION GOVERNANCE FRAMEWORK
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has proposed a Migration Governance Framework with recommendations that aim to address the problem at source. The IOM suggests that countries should foster stability, education, and employment opportunities, as well as lessen the motivations of forced migration, especially by promoting resilience and allowing individuals to choose whether to stay or migrate. Additionally, migration should be traced through the collection, analysis, and use of credible data and information on demographics, cross-border movements, internal displacement, diasporas, labour markets, seasonal trends, education, and health, all prerequisites to develop policies that weigh the benefits and risks of migration. Finally, the IOM calls for regional collaboration to mitigate the negative effects of migration while still preserving its integrity.
CURRENT MIGRATION CRISIS IN ITALY
More than 118,500 sea migrants have arrived on Italian shores since 1 January 2023. According to current trends, arrivals are approaching the peak reached in 2016, when over 181,500 maritime migrants arrived in Italy. There were around 115,000 landings between January and August of that year, compared to 114,526 over the same period in 2023. Worsening economic and social conditions in Tunisia have contributed to the rise, putting further strain on Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island and the first port of call for many crossings from North Africa. Migrants who arrive in Lampedusa or elsewhere in Sicily usually leave, with many attempting to get to northern Europe.
Mayors in various communities have complained about being left with the primary responsibility of caring for migrants, with no financial assistance from the federal government, particularly for unaccompanied youngsters. Italy has more marine arrivals, while other nations have greater overall migration figures, including land migration.
Because the Italian government has curtailed budgets, charities and campaigners argue there is a scarcity of receiving facilities for refugees. There has been hostility towards migrants which has led to charities calling for inclusive approaches by the government to establish more legal migration routes, end the hostility toward rescue organisations, and ease the legalisation procedure for irregular migrants.
The Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni’s administration has partially responded to similar concerns, increasing admission limits for non-EU migrant workers from about 83,000 in 2022 to 452,000 for 2023-2025. Additionally, more money has been allocated by the government for unaccompanied adolescents.
More than 118,500 sea migrants have arrived on Italian shores since 1 January 2023. According to current trends, arrivals are approaching the peak reached in 2016, when over 181,500 maritime migrants arrived in Italy.
FRANCE AND GERMANY EXTENDING A HELPING HAND
Italy, France, and Germany have agreed on a single approach to dealing with Italy’s current migration crisis, according to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, with Berlin apparently expecting to support the Italian position.
Since member states cannot address the migration issue on their own, Meloni has urged for a coordinated European approach – a concrete and important signal. Sources from the Elysée Palace, the official residence of the President of the French Republic, said, referring to a friendship between the two countries, that such coordination sometimes raises disputes, but also makes room for agreements, but either way, will always be conducted always with a respectful framework.
The three leaders agreed that screening for asylum seekers was also necessary in the case of arrivals, with a reinforcement of the resources available in the first reception centres, particularly on the island of Lampedusa (Sicily), which is constantly overwhelmed by the number of arrivals.
CURRENT MIGRATION-INDUCED CHALLENGES IN EUROPE
While many come to Europe in search of a better life, the administration has a hard time arranging a new life for the migrants. Within the growing list of challenges, the main ones identified so far call for a huge dedication of resources, which, amidst ongoing global crises is proving hard to manage. These challenges include caring for and resettling refugees with success, distinguishing between genuine asylum seekers and economic migrants, integrating newly arrived migrants into society, assessing the infrastructure and capacity of accepting countries to handle the influx of refugees and migrants, securing money for humanitarian help and on-the-spot support, addressing border protection and national security concerns in the context of uncontrolled migration and rising terrorist threats, and developing creative and advanced technology to assist in responding more quickly and efficiently to on-the-ground situations in real-time. All of these must be accomplished while responding to the refugee crisis in a way that protects the European Commission’s and its member states’ principles and legitimacy.
EUROPEAN UNION STEPPING UP
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Meloni visited Lampedusa’s migrant reception centre and talked to the local community. They also conducted inspections at the ‘boat graveyard’, where illegal migrants’ boats are housed, as well as at the port’s reception area where migrants arrive.
The two leaders conducted a joint press conference following the inspections. Meloni stated that they are facing a massive surge of migrants, saying, “The numbers in this migration phenomenon will shake border states first and then everyone. During this news conference, the EU Commission chief also revealed a 10-point action plan to assist Italy.
According to the announced 10-point strategy, a comprehensive set of measures will be implemented. These include providing increased assistance to Italy in managing migrant arrivals through the EU Asylum Agency and the EU Border Protection Agency, Frontex, facilitating the transfer of migrants landing in Lampedusa to other EU countries prepared to receive them, enhancing cooperation with African nations, where a majority of migrants originate, and boosting the number of migrant returns. The strategy also involves supporting initiatives to combat human trafficking by collaborating with source and transit countries like Tunisia, intensifying sea and air border patrols, especially those conducted by Frontex in the Mediterranean region, disrupting human traffickers’ logistical networks and unseaworthy vessel usage, expediting border entry procedures, and denying entry to individuals arriving from safe source countries, with records maintained in the Schengen Information System. Furthermore, awareness campaigns will be launched to discourage Mediterranean crossings, increased collaboration with UN migration and refugee organisations will facilitate voluntary returns, and migratory treaties will be actively implemented.
Migration has the ability to benefit both society and migrants in terms of socioeconomic outcomes. To reap these benefits, countries’ policies and practices must advance the socioeconomic well-being of migrants and society while adhering to international standards that respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of individuals within a state’s territory without regard to nationality, race, gender, religion, or migration status.