The View from Greece Pt. II: The New Pact on Migration and Asylum and Its Impact on Frontline States

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum is neither new nor daring in its approach, argues Angeliki Dimitriadi. Instead, it is pragmatic in acknowledging and reinforcing the reality of a Union moving further away from solidarity, between member states but especially towards refugees. 

Angeliki Dimitriadi, The Hellenic Foundation of European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)

On September 8, 2020 several fires broke out in the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos, destroying completely the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) that sheltered approximately 3,000 migrants. The remaining 9,000 had spent the better part of the past year(s) in makeshift or bought tents on the olive groves surrounding the RIC.

The humanitarian crisis in the Greek Reception and Identification Centres, like Moria, is the result of a chronic, inflexible European and national immigration policy. The priority, and rightly so, was the search for suitable accommodation and the transportation of unaccompanied minors. In less than a month, 400 children were moved from the island to the mainland while Member States committed to undertake relocation of those deemed vulnerable in Moria, including the children. The pledges were enthusiastically received but the overall speedy resolution raised some fundamental questions.  If such transfer was feasible, why had it not taken place before?

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The New Pact on Migration and Asylum. A Critical ‘First Look’ Analysis

To build an overarching compromise, the New Pact on Migration and Asylum drafted by the European Commission takes as its point of departure the radical demands formulated by the most nationalist governments in Europe. In doing so, it sacrifices migrants’ rights on the altar of a cohesive and integrated European migration policy.

Martin Deleixhe, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Where does it come from?

The New Migration Pact was built on the ashes of the mandatory relocation scheme that the Commission tried to push in 2016. And the least that one can say, is that it shows! The whole migration plan has been decisively shaped by this initial failure. Though the Pact has some merits, the very fact that it takes as its starting point the radical demands made by the most nationalist governments in Europe leads to sacrificing migrants’ rights on the altar of a cohesive and integrated European migration policy.

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European Migration Policy Before the “New Pact”: Eroding Solidarity

In the context of the EU-Turkey statement, it has often been held that member states would only re-commit to solidarity and the rule of law in migration policy if arrival numbers are kept low. In fact, the opposite has been the case, argues Therese Herrmann.

Therese Herrmann, University of Duisburg-Essen

Five years after migration rose to the forefront of the EU‘s political agenda in 2015, and four and a half years after, beginning with the EU-Turkey Statement, European heads of state settled on an agenda of externalizing responsibility for asylum seekers to third countries, European migration policy is in a dismal state. This much, it seems, all parties can agree on.

Looking at the current situation in Greece’s hotspots and the routine violation of fundamental rights it exposes asylum seekers to, it is hard to miss the cynicism of Europe’s perpetual “migration crisis”. The rationale for the EU-Turkey statement has been that member states would only re-commit to the principles of solidarity and the rule of law in European migration policy if arrival numbers are kept low – an approach that in all likelihood the European Commission will continue in its „New Pact on Migration and Asylum“. In fact, the opposite has been the case.

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The View from Greece: At Europe’s External Borders, Deterrence is the Norm Once Again

In Greece, deterrence is the new normal since the summer of 2019, long before the pandemic. Legislative changes, interdiction practices, and an overall harsher treatment of asylum seekers and recognised refugees are taking place. As the New Pact on Migration and Asylum is being negotiated, Greece appears to show the way forward as regards the priorities of the Member States and European Commission for the future of asylum in Europe.

Angeliki Dimitriadi, The Hellenic Foundation of European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)

The UNHCR released its annual Global Trends report ahead of world refugee day. Each passing year presents an increasingly troubling picture of global forced displacement. In 2019, the number of forcibly displaced individuals reached 79.5 million. The asylum seekers count has now reached 4.2 million with the number of refugees also increasing to 29.6 million. Five countries account for two-thirds of displaced people across borders: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

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‘Gift Exchange’ and Value Circulation in Migration and ‘Integration’ Research

Understanding how exchange and circulation of values take place is essential to the analysis of how values matter and change shape within the European field of migration and ‘integration’. Ingrid Jerve Ramsöy discusses how the use of anthropological gift theory can support us in such an analysis.

Ingrid Jerve Ramsøy, University of Malmö

 

From an anthropological perspective one can argue that values are the ‘stuff’ of human social life. In many ways, values – or what we deem essential, important, and inconsequential – is what culture is all about. This influences power relationships, in that those who have access to more of what a particular group of people deems important, are often placed higher in social hierarchies, while this same position might also reinforce their access to ‘important things’. As such, value(s), culture, and social categorization and stratification are intimately connected.

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Forced Migration and Art: Reflections on Recent Exhibitions

Inspired by her recent visit to the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., Izabella Main reflects on the role of art in depicting and narrating experiences of forced migration.

Izabella Main, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

 

The ‘refugee crisis’ has not been invisible in the art world. At the 2019 Venice Biennale, the Swiss artist, Christoph Büchel, exhibited an actual deathtrap vessel in which hundreds of migrants drowned. He called his artistic expression of the tragedy Barca Nostra. He described the vessel as “a relic of a human tragedy but also a monument to contemporary migration, engaging real and symbolic borders and the (im)possibility of freedom of movement of information and people.” The relic underscores “our mutual responsibility representing the collective policies and politics that create such wrecks,” he added.

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Researching Norms and Values: The Emic and Etic Approach

In this blog post, Elzbieta Goździak , Izabella Main, and Iza Kujawa reflect on the methodological approaches they have deployed in their field research in Poland, Hungary, Lebanon, Turkey, and Thailand to differentiate between the insiders’ points of view and the researchers’ interpretation of the collected data.

Elzbieta M. Goździak, Izabella Main, and Izabela Kujawa, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

 

Empirical research on norms and values constitutes a big part of the NoVaMigra project. We want to understand what role different values play in the refugees and immigrants’ integration into the European host societies. The readers of this blog have already gotten a glimpse at the research our colleagues are doing in Germany. In a blog post published in November, Franziska Bohm wrote about her attempts to explore transmission of European and national values in mandatory integration courses all immigrants in Germany must take.

Today, we want to reflect on our own research, both in terms of the subject matter we are studying and in relation to the methodological approaches we have deployed. Read More

The EU’s Refugee “Crisis” in Greece, Year Four

The asylum bill introduced by the newly elected conservative government of New Democracy in Greece raises the obstacles for the integration of asylum seekers even more. It adds an additional layer of difficulties on top of an already dysfunctional reception system put into place by the previous Syriza-led governmental coalition. Haris Malamidis argues that the term “crisis”—which is often used to describe the increased mixed migratory flows in 2015—better captures Greece’s troubled condition with respect to its identity and the values that inform its migration policies.

Haris Malamidis, The Hellenic Foundation of European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)

 

Four years have passed since the so-called refugee “crisis”, with migration still dominating the everyday political discourse in Greece. The term “crisis”—which is often used to describe the increase of mixed migratory flows in 2015—is widely debated. Framing it as “crisis” reveals a rather euro-centric approach to human mobility, which does not take into consideration increased migratory flows in other geographical regions. According to IOM, the number of people that migrated from the MENA region to Europe in 2015-2016 is significantly lower than the number of those who migrated to other regions of the world or those who were internally displaced in their countries of origin. The term “crisis” seems to better capture the troubled political condition of Greece with respect to its identity and values than the idea of an alleged external threat. This identity crisis with regard to migration is reflected in the reception and integration of around 90,000 refugees and migrants that have stayed in Greece since the 2015-2016 flow according to UNHCR.

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Conveying Values as Part of Integration Work in Germany: Thoughts on Starting Fieldwork

In Germany’s state-regulated integration courses for immigrants, attention has recently shifted to values and value transmission. Franziska Böhm describes NoVaMigra’s ongoing fieldwork on how values are incorporated into course material and conveyed in the classroom.

Franziska Böhm, Malmö University

 

The changing narratives of immigration in the German society and how immigration is viewed overall has an influence on the measures taken to integrate newly arrived migrants and refugees. One aspect of integration, besides many others not discussed here, is the association of a society with certain norms and values. It can be argued that it is central to adhere to a common set of norms and values in order to live together in peace. However, how norms and values are defined and who has to adhere to whose understanding of them is widely contested. One thing which is certain is that norms and values play a role within the discourse surrounding immigration in Germany. One might fear to loose one’s own values, fear the ‘other’ or ‘unknown’ values, or see the need to reevaluate the interpretation and implementation of the fundamental values of the European Union in its member states: ‘respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law’.

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Protecting the European Way of Life ? Von der Leyen Caught in the Paradox of Liberal Identities

Von der Leyen’s decision to create a portfolio titled “Protecting our European way of life” in her Commission prompted a large political row. However, most critical comments contended themselves with a moral condemnation of her use of far right language. In our view, this response misses the deeper issue, namely that the European project rests on a liberal identity affected by a paradox : since its supposedly unique identity is defined in universalist terms, it is at pain to highlight what is so specific about itself.

Martin Deleixhe, University Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne

 

When the portfolios of the von der Leyen’s Commission were first announced, one title immediately stood out. Margaritis Schinas, the former Chief Spokesman of the European Commission, had been appointed Vice-President of the Commission with a portfolio oddly coined “Protecting our European Way of Life”. Critical questions duly arose in the wake of the press briefing. Is there any such thing as a European way of life? And even if there was, from whom ought it be protected? Where would an existential threat come from? Worryingly, Schinas’ portfolio included the coordination of three main political tasks: upholding the rule of law, overseeing migration and internal security. The not-so-subtle link between a “European way of life” that needed protection and immigration soon turned the initially perplexed questions into firm condemnations. Hadn’t von der Leyen made an ill-judged concession to the far right? Was she attempting to tap into the vocabulary of nationalist Eurosceptics to undercut their domestic appeal? The most charitable pundits were inclined to grant von der Leyen the benefit of the doubt: perhaps she had just made a communication blunder? However, the latter seems unlikely. The title is highly unusual and was bound to attract some attention in the lukewarm and diplomatic EU environment. Surrounded by a team of communication professionals, von der Leyen could not have ignored that the “Protecting the European way of life” label was courting controversy.

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