Go home. These are two simple words UK Prime Minister David Cameron would like African immigrants flooding across the Mediterranean to hear more often. Even once would be enough.
In a speech to the Globsec security conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, Mr Cameron insisted Friday that schemes to settle people seeking a better life in Europe would not “solve the problem.” Instead he urged EU leaders to work more closely with governments in Africa to try to stop economic migrants setting sail in the first place and those found to have made crossings should be “returned safely”.
“We won’t resolve this crisis unless we do more to stop these people leaving their countries in the first place; until we break the link between boarding a boat and settling in Europe,” he said.
Mr Cameron’s comments came on the same day Downing Street announced an expansion in a programme to accept vulnerable refugees including torture victims from Syria in the UK. Sources quoted by the Daily Express said the measure would mean hundreds more refugees settling in Britain over the next two years.
This modest addition is virtually nothing compared to an estimated nine million Syrians estimated to have left their homes due to the civil war. Three million have fled to neighbouring countries, while the rest are internally displaced in the country.
Joining people fleeing violence in Sudan and Eritrea, they have contributed to a surge in asylum applications in Europe, mostly lodged by asylum seekers landing in Italy after crossing by boat from departure points in Libya.
Some 184,815 people applied for asylum in the first three months of this year in Europe – an 86 per cent increase on the same period the year before.
Mr Cameron said that the biggest factor that dictates whether people would attempt to cross the Mediterranean is their treatment once they reach Europe; only the threat of immediate and unqualified repatriation could prevent departures in the first place.
Under his plan, he wants the EU to emulate a Spanish scheme that returned people who arrived in large numbers on the Canary Islands. Mr Cameron pointed to the Spanish government scheme because it worked alongside the countries people were coming from and travelling through. He said:
“They made sure they had the right police, coastguard, aid and governance resources to stop people taking the decision to leave. And they made sure that the economic migrants who did end up leaving were returned safely.
“We need to do the same – on a larger scale. We should be leading the world on promoting development and helping our international partners build stronger institutions.”
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