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 (ELIAMAP)

 

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 one created by an alleged external threat. This identity crisis with regards to migration is thoroughly 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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Talking of Values & Migration Policy

In their new NoVaMigra Research Paper “Talking of Values: Understanding the Normative Discourse of EU Migration Policy”, Angeliki Dimitriadi and Harris Malamidis explore the normative discourse of the EU institutions and identify which values were the most prominent in the discourse on EU migration policy from 2014-2017. They find that values are both useful and instrumental to the EU institutions – and highlight the exclusionary potential references to shared values can have as regards migrants*.

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

 

Ιn the recent United Nation’s General Assembly , the President of the European Council, Mr Donald Tusk, noted that “if you want to follow the principles of international solidarity, you always have to help the weaker […]”. The call to solidarity has been repeatedly echoed in the EU and by the EU in recent years, usually in response to crises; financial crisis, the refugee crisis, Brexit.  Despite the many calls for it, solidarity remains an ambiguous term, perhaps even more so within the EU than at the global stage. Yet, it has been critical, along with other norms and values, in the discourse of EU institutions throughout the refugee crisis (2015) and its aftermath.

What role have values played and continue to play in migration policy? It is a difficult question to answer, since it is impossible to know what leaders and institutional representatives think of values and how the latter truly affect policy. In our NoVaMigra research paper “Talking of Values: Understanding the Normative Discourse of EU Migration Policy”, we instead propose to look at how institutions talk of values. By focusing on the narrative around norms and migration, it is possible to see the extent to which values and norms are acknowledged, what policies they frame and draw preliminary conclusions on whether values have a role to play in migration policy. Read More

Italy’s Immigration and Security Decree: A Lose-lose Outcome

Italy’s new Immigration and Security Decree has scrapped humanitarian protection and revoked a holistic approach to asylum seekers’ reception. This will result in an increase in irregularity, which will translate into marginalization and increasing insecurity for local communities, argues Chiara Marchetti.

Chiara Marchetti, University of Milan

Migration and security have always been the Lega party’s workhorses and its current leader, Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini, has built the party’s recent electoral success – constantly growing even after the March 2018 elections (according to the most recent data, it has now reached at least 30%) – right around these issues. Migrants have often been defined as a burden, as irregular aliens, or even as criminals, no matter what data showed. But the most recent developments have pushed this narrative’s normative boundaries. Now, it is not only migrants’ individual actions, but their exercise of the right to asylum itself that is criminalized. The Immigration and Security Decree, issued on October 2018 and converted into Law n. 132, attacks asylum seekers and the reception system as a whole. It inverts the image of migrants landing on the Italian shores. The impression is that they are not considered as subjects at risk, but, on the contrary, as risky subjects. Those escaping from Libya and trying to reach Europe are not to be rescued anymore, but to be pushed back. Because asylum seekers are generally suspected of being bogus, law 132/18 arranges for their confinement and control. And at the end of their asylum procedures, the possibility of being protected by a regular status has become almost a mirage. But it has not always been so.

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Fortress Hungary

Based on her ethnographic research in Hungary, Elżbieta M. Goździak reviews how the criminalization of refugees and asylum seekers has played a crucial part in the built-up of Viktor Orbán’s “Illiberal Democracy”.

Elżbieta M. Goździak, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

On a crisp fall morning in 2016, Péter, my research assistant, and I were buying train tickets at the Keleti Railway Station to visit a refugee camp in Bicske, when we spotted a poster aimed at recruiting “border-hunters.” Intrigued by the poster, I nudged Péter to talk to the recruiters to learn more about this scheme. We learned that the Hungarian police was recruiting 3,000 “border-hunters” to join 10,000 police and soldiers patrolling a razor-wire fence built along the 175-meter long border with Serbia to stop refugees from crossing into Hungary.

In the summer of 2015, the same Keleti Railway Station became a de facto refugee camp for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan. However, by the early 2017, the Hungarian border patrol reported detaining fewer than 200 refugees reaching Hungary’s southern border with Serbia a day. Ten thousand police and three thousand “border-hunters” to deal with a couple hundred refugees.

Having been born and lived in communist Poland for several decades, I am amazed that a country that once sat behind the Iron Curtain has adopted a build-a-wall mentality to keep out refugees and asylum seekers. My Hungarian friends remind me that Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary, has been building Fortress Hungary for some time now. Hungarian border police, guns in holsters, swagger in pairs alongside the fence in a scene reminiscent of the Cold War. The “border-hunters” are equipped with night-vision goggles, body heat detectors, and migrant-sniffing dogs.

At a swearing-in ceremony of border hunters in Budapest in the spring of 2017, a few months after our encounter with the recruiters, Viktor Orbán, whose anti-immigrant policies have gone down well with voters, said Hungary had to act to defend itself. The storm has not died, it has only subsided temporarily, he said.

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The UN Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees, Sovereignty and the New Populist Far-Right Global Network of Cooperation

Much of the heated debate surrounding the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees shows that populist politics and strategies are no longer only done within national borders. By trying to make exclusive nationalism, ethno-pluralism and unlimited sovereignty acceptable and effective political rationales again, populist parties organize themselves as transnational, far-right networks. Regarding the Global Compacts, this led to a situation where Europe had to give up its alleged unified commitment to these global agreements. In the long run, the nationalist backlash, pushed forward by populist far-right networks, will question the role of the EU as a reliable actor in global cooperation.

François Boucher, University Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne

Johanna Gördemann, University of Duisburg-Essen

Up until recently there was no formal UN organization dealing with all aspects of international migration. However, the 2015 migrants and refugee crisis has prompted a new era of global governance of international migration. Indeed, in September 2016, in response to the crisis, the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The Declaration expresses solidarity towards all migrants, recognizes their special vulnerability and carries the promise of a strengthened international cooperation for the protection of the rights of all migrants and asylum seekers.  It claims that contemporary large migration fluxes “call for global approaches and global solutions. No one State can manage such movements on its own”.

To materialize this call for greater international cooperation on all aspects of migration, the Declaration committed UN Member States to work towards the adoption of two Global Compacts, The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), and The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The former was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 17, 2018, while the latter was adopted by UN member states at an intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, Morocco, on December 11, 2018, and was formally endorsed by the UN General Assembly on December 19, 2018.

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The View from Germany: CEAS Reform and the Spectre of “Merkel’s Refugee Policy”

The German migration policy debate still widely assumes that Angela Merkel’s insistence on the primacy of European regulations over national laws is a position which strengthens migrants’ rights. But judging from the current state of the CEAS reform, this may no longer be the case. 

Therese Herrmann, University of Duisburg-Essen

One of the striking aspects of the ongoing German debate on migration policy three years from its crisis moment in 2015 is that the terms of the debate and the facts to which they refer have come so far apart that the debate can seem to chase ghosts. This month, Angela Merkel stepped down, after 18 years, as CDU party leader over her party’s slumping approval rates that many associate with a public dissatisfaction of her government’s handling of migration issues. But the ongoing political prominence of the migration policy debate not only ignores that the number of incoming asylum seekers in Germany is down below 2014 levels, it also seems to overlook that this is due to the ever stricter policies  Angela Merkel‘s coalition government introduced both at home and as part of a European executive.

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