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Continuous disaster – not just one-off tragedies

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The ship is crowded on the Mediterranean.
The ship is crowded on the Mediterranean.

The grief, anger and rage is understandably great when 500 migrants drown themselves on their way to the dream of a better life in Europe.

But in reality, an ongoing catastrophe is occurring as at least 20,000 people have died since 2014.

Tragedies can be stopped, but the will to implement solutions is weak.

The scenes are unfortunately too familiar.

A ship fully loaded with refugees and migrants capsizes in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Greece. Small boat accidents happen all the time unnoticed. This time is one of the worst since large-scale migrant journeys across the Mediterranean began more than ten years ago.

Relatives, politicians and voluntary organizations shout angrily as always that these tragedies must end. Something must be done.

There are ways to attack the problem.

* Allow whoever wants Europa Apply for visas in their home countries

Europe will depend more in the future on labor migration. Why not let the required professional groups apply to come to Europe temporarily to work. They could then travel here regularly and avoid dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean. The same with refugees who have strong reasons for asylum and who cannot obtain protection in their immediate area.

However, the chance of such a solution is slim. Although tens of thousands of immigrants are granted work permits in Europe each year, the migration pressure is much greater. Many of them will not be approved and risk taking the dangerous route across the Mediterranean.

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* Armada rescue boats

Today there are fewer rescue ships than volunteer organizations. However, it is strongly opposed by the Mediterranean countries, which accuse the organizations of collaborating with people smugglers.

Even if such cooperation does not take place officially, it is not possible to overlook the fact that rescue ships can help attract more people to take the dangerous journeys. If migrants know they will be rescued, the risks of making the journey are reduced.

* Transferring asylum procedures to countries outside Europe

Ideas and attempts in this direction continue within the European Union. The problem is that since Europe does not want to accept economic migrants and only a few refugees, very few of them will be granted asylum. Therefore, boat trips to Europe will continue to attract people who are rejected.

* Australian solution

Australia has introduced strict rules which mean that refugees arriving by boat are never allowed to set foot on Australian soil. Instead, Australia signed agreements with some small countries where refugee camps were set up. Those granted asylum can stay in these island nations.

Australia also towed the boats of migrants entering Australian territory to where they came from. This means that the movement of refugees has almost stopped.

But within the EU, these “pushbacks” are illegal and inhumane. The EU has tried to outsource asylum reception, but has had difficulty finding countries willing to take on that role for a fee. The UK has signed agreements with Rwanda but due to legal disputes, few asylum seekers have been transferred there.

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* Stopping and punishing human smugglers

In the current case in Greece, nine Egyptian men have been arrested and will stand trial on suspicion of organizing the fatal flight. Nowadays, very few refugees or migrants reach Europe without paying tens of thousands of kroner to smugglers. Voyages across the Mediterranean are a titanic business that brings in billions of unscrupulous periodicals. Not only do they organize excursions, but they also attract people who otherwise would not have dared indulge, by promising well-paying jobs and a wealthy life in Europe.

But access to these tournaments requires cooperation with the police and coast guards of the countries from which the boats are launched. Countries that are often undemocratic and where corruption is rampant. It is difficult and politically sensitive to establish successful cooperative relations.

This will require extensive efforts with surveillance of drones and fast-moving coast guard vessels on the territory of Libya, Tunisia and other countries.

Smugglers are also aided indirectly by unscrupulous employers in Europe who hire undocumented workers for criminally low wages.

The European Union recently, after many years of deadlock, agreed to a common migration policy. One of the main features is that economic migrants who come from countries with little chance of obtaining asylum must be quickly rejected and returned. The only question is where.

At the moment, the European Union is trying to establish close cooperation with Tunisia. It may be willing to receive its own citizens but not the citizens of other countries.

The main problem is that there are far more people who want to get to Europe than European countries want to take in.

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Europe’s leaders like to appear as if they support the right to asylum, but at the same time they are doing everything they can to reduce the number of refugees who get to Europe.

Then it becomes almost impossible to find solutions that really work.

Therefore, smuggling trips across the Mediterranean will continue and new tragedies will constantly occur.