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Europe needs safe pathways, not naval blockades

Europe’s approach to people migrating should be balanced and humane. It should include safe and regular pathways to Europe, such as resettlement schemes, complementary pathways like humanitarian visas and work permit schemes, and labour migration schemes grounded in decent work principles. Such policies would ensure safe access to Europe for people seeking asylum, reduce loss of life at sea and reduce human smuggling and trafficking.

News that EU policymakers are considering a military naval blockade are highly concerning. In an interview with ARD, MPG’s Senior Legal Policy Analyst Dr. Carmine Conte, states that “A naval blockade is generally considered illegal under international law, as it involves the use of military force to restrict the movement of vessels. These actions are typically only allowed as a defensive measure during times of war. We are clearly not in this situation. The naval blockades should therefore not be used to prevent migrants from coming to Europe.”

Militarising maritime surveillance risks making voyages of people migrating to Europe more dangerous and play into the hands of smugglers. Instead of militarising borders, the EU needs to adopt and coordinate a proactive search and rescue mission to save people at sea. This means allocating clear responsibilities, competencies and funds to EU and national authorities and actors, including NGOs.

On deals with third countries that externalise EU migration policy, such as the recent EU-Tunisia deal, Carmine emphasises that “there are accountability issues that make it hard to track how EU money is spent by third countries and assess whether human rights violations are taking place on their territories.”

About the Migration Policy Group (MPG)

MPG is an independent think-and-do-tank based in Brussels. MPG’s purpose is rooted in its ability to inspire networks to provide evidence-based projects, research and campaigns in the areas of integration, migration and anti-discrimination.