The Malta Independent 8 April 2020, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Migration - An EU solution is needed, and there must be solidarity

Tuesday, 9 July 2019, 10:22 Last update: about 10 months ago

Malta and Italy have been arguing over migration issues for quite some time, yet they have come together and issued a statement, saying that it is no longer acceptable to proceed on a case by case basis on migration issues. How right they are.

The EU is an idea based on solidarity, on the different countries that form part of this endeavour coming together to work on major issues as one, and face challenges head on.

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Irregular migration however, has been one area where the EU has never truly come together. The countries in the south of Europe, mainly Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta, saw many thousands of migrants seek refuge over the past years, and while some other EU countries were always willing to help, others took a different stance, not wanting any part of it.

The southern EU countries did the right thing when it came to rescuing migrants, and allowing those who have the right to asylum to remain, as were the other countries that often helped in this regard. But the idea of countries helping on a case by case basis has run its course.

Italy and Malta have begun to take harsher stands against allowing migrants who were rescued further away from their borders in, and that is mainly due to there not being a mechanism to help equally distribute asylum seekers between the EU states while obviously keeping families together. These countries seem to have had enough, and some form of backlash was expected after years of failing to convince the EU to create some form of compulsory sharing mechanism.

It is however wrong to keep migrants stranded out at sea for days on end due to disputes over which country the boat was nearer to when they were rescued, especially given the hardships they would have faced to even make it this far. In truth there are only a handful of countries who always offer to pitch in. The rest seem to be happily ignoring the problem. This sets a dangerous precedent as if there is a major issue in any country, what is to stop other countries from not helping them. If solidarity is seen as a choice, then that weakens the idea of the EU. Choosing solidarity is not solidarity at all, and could result in unforeseen repercussions against those countries who are choosing to sit back and do nothing.

People are dying in the Mediterranean. Libya is not as safe as the governments say. Europe needs to find a solution. Better integration measures, better asylum processing mechanisms (although strides have been made in this regard) and better responsibility sharing are all key issues which the EU needs to discuss and agree upon once and for all.

Without such measures being put in place, the split between migrants and Europeans will only widen, and the more isolationist elements in Europe will only get stronger. The EU probably helped prevent countless wars, and that is something that cannot be forgotten in a continent that was known for constantly being in a state of war.

The key is collaboration, and it always has been the key. The idea of people from different cultures intermingling helped create a sense of pride for Europeans, and helped countries within the EU better understand each others’ cultures, and come closer together. But issues like migration continue to divide the people and the governments between those willing to help, and those who want to sit back, do nothing, and allow the Mediterranean to remain a graveyard.

This is no longer acceptable. A solution is needed to ensure that fewer lives are put at risk. A push to encourage better integration, rather than the creation of separate communities within the same cities is also needed, in order to help stop the concerns of locals, and of foreigners.

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