There is no common European response to “the migration crisis”

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
15 June 2023

According to ODI, Europe is facing the biggest migration crisis since World War II. There are actually two crises which are unfolding in parallel. The first they identify is the global displacement crisis where more and more people are fleeing conflict, violence and violation of basic human rights. The second is the crisis of EU migration management. They argue that the current system is not fit for purpose. The European Migration Policy is predominantly defined by actions of individual states and European countries have long made bilateral agreements with some countries in a bid to regulate immigration.

According to this report certain countries seem to favour certain policy areas for example, almost half of Germany’s migration policies over the last two decades focus on the integration of migrants and refugees and over the same period, more than a quarter of the UK’s policies targeted border control.

The purpose of migration policies is either to make it easier or harder for people to enter or remain in a country. The Article asks which of the opposing motives dominate the migration regimes of Germany, Spain and the UK.

The authors found that while the three countries implemented both types of policies, namely integration of migrants and refugees and targeting border control, the UK’s policies have generally become more restrictive over time, while Germany’s have become less restrictive. Spain is a little all over the place, going back and forth over the years.

The report concludes that the only impact of more restrictive visa and asylum policies achieve is to push potential and rejected applicants into irregularity and it is obvious that migration policies are the last thing on people’s minds when they flee violence, conflict and poverty. Motivation for going to a particular country as opposed to the other are diverse, ranging from access to employment opportunities to a language spoken. “When legal migration corridors are tightened and countries’ borders become more closed, people don’t stop coming they just change their route. As part of that process, smugglers become more in-demand and journeys more dangerous”. Therefore, the authors of the report argue, harsh border controls will never be an appropriate management response “to one of humanities basic compulsions to move in search of a better life”.

The migration for growth agenda

As Human Rights lawyers we argue that the migration for growth agenda, (in which it is taken for granted that Western societies need skilled migrants) needs to be re-examined. This agenda has become a dominant belief system among Western Governments, but the migration for growth argument is framed within the economic logic of attracting the best and brightest and serving the economic growth. The danger is that this approach assists the increases differentiation in public debate between highly skilled and low skilled migrants, undesirable migrants breaking the law by migrating illegally and the positive valuation of skilled migrants. This may reflect an elitist point of view, which undervalues the crucial role of low skilled migrants and people in general in the economic fabric of the UK, by denying low skilled labour their rightful place in the economy. The selective immigration policies privilege the already relatively privileged in their country of origin, by giving them preferential access to the skilled and legal migration opportunities, while the poor and lower skilled are either excluded from such opportunities or often have to rely on irregular migration. The relative lack of legal immigration channels for lower skilled does not reflect an absence of labour demand for such workers, which we know exists in the UK.