Africans’ desire to move to Europe is a “legitimate aspiration” and so the European Union (EU) must allow them to migrate legally if it wants to cut deaths in the Mediterranean, a top UN official has said.
Europe director at the UN-backed International Organisation for Migration, Eugenio Ambrosi, told The Guardian that Africans seek a “decent livelihood” — which they are unable to find in their homelands — and so EU nations should provide them with jobs.
Speaking after a summit in Malta last week at which EU leaders agreed to increase work with Libya, the main country of departure for migrants, the UN figure warned trying to stem the flow of migrants via “repressive measures” would not work.
Ambrosi argued that the plan, which includes increased training and equipment for Libyan coastguards and better conditions at Libyan reception centres, is incomplete.
“The main reason for irregularity of movement into Europe is the fact that legal channels to come to Europe are basically non-existent.
“If you want to try to fulfil a very legitimate aspiration, such as having a decent livelihood, and you cannot find that back at home, but you can find that in Europe, the only way to try to get that decent livelihood is to get into Europe irregularly, because legal channels are not available. So that is something that needs to expand.”
Ambrosio insisted that allowing Africans to legally migrate to Europe would be “reasonable”, claiming that EU nations are in need of immigrants.
“Improving legal channels does not mean that anybody comes in, anytime they want, without any check,” he said. “It means offering reasonable, workable efficient ways and criteria to be admitted into a labour market, which incidentally requires migrants.”
Despite unemployment in Europe hovering at around 10 per cent and youth unemployment above 20 per cent, the EU’s foreign affairs chief on Wednesday declared the bloc needs migrants to pay Europeans’ pensions.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a Europe-Africa summit, Federica Mogherini said the continent “does not and will not close its doors to migrants.
“I believe Europeans should understand that we need migration for our economies and for our welfare systems, with the current demographic trend we have to be sustainable.”
Nearly 400,000 migrants reached Europe by sea in 2016, and more than 5,000 are believed to have died attempting the journey, aid agencies estimate.
While Ambrosio and other global figures assert opening the borders will prevent migrants dying at sea, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott advised the EU to turn boats back to Africa.
“The great thing about Operation Sovereign Borders is that, in stopping the boats, we have stopped the deaths,” he said in 2015.
And this week the nation’s current leader, Malcolm Turnbull celebrated 900 days since the last boat of illegal migrants reached Australia, underlining the uncompromising strategy’s success.