Stopping the Mediterranean migrant boats is critical to discouraging criminal trafficking gangs exploiting the desires of refugees and migrants, and turning European countries into a new hub of imported, organised crime, according to a new think-tank report.
The Stop the Boats proposal by the Bow Group suggests that while the European Union must have Migration Processing Centres (MPCs) ready to deal with incoming asylum seekers and their applications to remain in Europe, there must also be an increased effort to stop the boats reaching Europe in the first instance.
The policy, based on Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders operation, which was aimed at addressing the issue of people smuggling into Australia in 2013. The idea, championed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, saw the number of monthly arrivals fall from the hundreds to zero over seven months from the end of 2013 to February 2014.
Now, pressure is mounting on European countries to mimic the approach, with European Union operating Migration Processing Centres (MPCs) in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, in order to head off asylum seekers headed towards the Mediterranean.
Nic Conner, the paper’s author and the Bow Group’s Social and Home Affair Research Fellow said: “These poor people have a horrific journey to Europe. They have to survive a desert death march at the hands of snake heads and gangs before making it to the sea. Many are raped and tortured, and all risk death at many stages of the journey to Europe – only for them to be turned down for asylum if they finally make across the sea.
“We, as a civilised nation, have a moral duty to stop the organisers, who traffic refugees from conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Somalia and Sudan. However, we need to send the firm message to all migrants: if you try to get into Europe though the back door, you will not be let in. You cannot come here by paying an evil human trafficker or by crossing in their boats. If you want to come to Europe and start a new life, you must come here lawfully.”
The proposals include financial aid for countries that host Migration Processing Centres, and inducements for the host African nations of these countries to accept a number of those travelling across the continent, to limit those that might reach Europe. Critically, the report argues that those who fail their asylum or visa applications must be returned to their country of origin, if it can be established.
Conner added: “We need to do everything that encourages people to not get on these boats. That is why I call on the British Government to take the lead and work with other European nations to establish and run Migration Processing Centres in Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia where migrants can apply for asylum to European nations. They should be encouraged to settle in North Africa if they flee from the Middle East, as it is essential that the Arab world looks after its people.
“We must stop any migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean by rescuing and towing the boats to the nearest Migration Processing Centres, and destroying the boats afterwards. The human traffickers should be punished.”
The report notes that there are currently over half a million migrants in Libya waiting to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, and that for every twenty-five who make the journey, one will die while crossing.
Between January and April of this year, some 35,000 migrants have made it to the coast of Southern Europe and more than 1,600 have died in the process. The Bow Group calls the latest migrant influx “the greatest movement of people since the end of World War Two” and points out tha globally, “the number of refugees has reached 50 million, just under the population of England.”
Bow Group Chairman Ben Harris-Quinney said: “The United Kingdom has rejected the EU’s proposal to distribute quotas of migrants throughout Europe, and rightly so, but we haven’t yet identified a realistic way to deal with the crisis, which is placing a huge burden on the nations of Southern Europe. Our proposal doesn’t simply dismiss the EU proposal, it presents a workable alternative.”