By Catherine Wihtol de Wenden
Translation: Davina Durgana
The meeting on Tuesday, April 26th 2011 between Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi was held on the control of consecutive migrations of Arab revolutions; France has announced the beginning of a safeguard clause planned by the Schengen against immigrants arriving at the Franco-Italian border.
The revolutions that have arisen on the southern shore of the Mediterranean (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya) have aroused alarmist discourse on the migratory risk implicit for Europe. Thus, in his speech on February 27th 2011, President Sarkozy has with all in agreement – discussed the situation derived from the growth of migration and Islamism. He has indicated that major consequences of “migratory flows that have become uncontrollable and on terrorism” should be assumed, adding that, “it’s all of Europe that would be on the front lines”. Since then, the Media has not stopped interrogating the tie that exists between the Revolution on the interior of these countries and the migratory movements that have resulted, though it is rare to see revolutionaries leaving their country without waiting for the aftermath of their victory in growth of liberties and equality. One month later, the arrival of approximately 28.000 Tunisians and Libyans on the Italian island of Lampedusa has provoked contention between the President of Council, Silvio Berlusconi – who had decided to deliver temporary visas of three months to those who requested asylum in the form of territorial asylum – and France who has refused to allow migrants to breach the Franco-Italian border though regulated by the Schengen Accords (free movement on the interior of the Schengen Zone, of 28 European countries). On April 20th, 2011 French authorities have announced that they have decided to suspend the provisory application method of this convention to apply the clause of preemptive safeguard “in cases of threats to the public security” and to allow them to resume state control of borders.
We consider two lines of logic:
1. The Multilateral and Bilateral Accords of Border Control, a new diplomacy of migrations. Signed between an E.U. country and a coastal country within the E.U. or between a non-European country and the European Union, these accords often aim to limit migratory flows by policies of control of departure and the redirection of undocumented persons to the border, in exchange for development policies, commercial accords or the attribution of visas for certain elites. The most emblematic example remains those of the readmission accords in terms of the European Pact on immigration and asylum of 2008, already put in place by a number of States in a bilateral fashion. Thus, Italy and Libya have already signed many texts in this sense, making Libya the border-guard for Europe against undocumented migrants and requestors of asylum and has engaged in filtering them, without being a signatory to the Geneva Convention on Asylum (1951). In exchange, Tripoli requested 5 billion Euros from the Government of Berlusconi. For their side, Tunisia has also signed bilaterally with Italy and with France documents through which they are engaged in controlling borders and to return redirected undocumented immigrants.
2. The Policy of Outsourcing Borders. The loss of control of the Readmission agreements linked to the end of the dictators of the South poses the question of the efficiency of other European instruments of border control. It would mean on one side, the Schengen Accords on the control of external European borders, and on the other side, the Dublin Accords on the right of asylum within Europe. Finally, Frontex has placed European police in control of borders. Nevertheless, faced with the weak establishment of bilateral readmission accords and border control signed with Libya and Tunisia, one could question what determinations weigh on the instruments of external border control of Europe, spearheaded by the European Policy on Immigration and Asylum since the beginning of the European Pact in 2008. What is Frontex doing? It will carry support for the shipwrecked of the Mediterranean to bring them to European coasts, despite the lack of resources, even when their budget in 2010 was 88 million Euros. Additionally emphasized, is that the European system seems to be less effective when bilateral accords are tied to signatory dictators. In fact, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt did not have a multilateral readmission accord with the European Union. The signed bilateral accords on border control, that is to say, commercial, between heads of States have seemed consequently less efficient because the regimes that have succeeded dictators are considered to be held in less respect. Finally, the current difficulties of managing migratory flows have equally demonstrated a lack of solidarity in the European countries not “sharing the burden” of Italy.
An overview of the migratory context of depart and return on the Southern bank of the Mediterranean has driven us to identify very diverse migratory situations. Tunisia is a country of emigration in which 50% of the population is under 25 years of age, is largely urban, educated and racked with unemployment. Nevertheless, due to its proximity to Europe, it is also a transitory country for sub-Saharans. Another transit country, Libya, which in 2009 sheltered 780.000 foreigners, according to the report of the United Nations on Population, represents a country of immigration, considering its oil resources. This country attracts a southern migration (to say South-South) essentially coming from neighboring states (Egypt, Niger, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria). Most of these migrants are now repatriated to their country of origin, which has sometimes organized the return of their deported, such as Morocco for example. Others are returned to their homes by all means, anxious about climates of violence. As for Egypt, it’s a country of depart towards the countries of the Gulf, Italy, Libya and to a lesser degree, some other European countries (France, Spain).
These States have signed bilateral and multilateral readmission accords with their European neighbors through which they are engaged in sending home undocumented migrants redirected to the border of the European countries, despite their nationalities or if they are migrants in transit on their territory are then arrested in Europe. Since these conventions were signed between States or with the European Union, they have often been negotiated directly between Presidents Berlusconi, Kaddafi and Ben Ali, in exchange for funds such as the obtainment of visas for candidates (very qualified) initially, measures of aid or development or gifts, such as the construction of a freeway from the East to the West from Libya to Egypt. However, has the end of these authoritarian regimes led now to the end of their engagement as shields of Europe?
In Tunisia, the candidates of departure previous to the Jasmine Revolution profited from the opportunity of more relaxed police control of the borders. They have attempted to leave from less common points of departure such as the Zarzis region, near the Island of Djerba. Unemployment, poverty, and hopelessness faced with the consequences of a revolution in employment and standard of living have incited them to leave. The majority are not requesting asylum, but they are mostly economic migrants that dream of Europe in general, and France in particular. A majority of these migrants are found on the Island of Lampedusa. In return, the migrants in transit in Tunisia have taken other routes or are repatriated to sub-Saharan Africa. As for Libyan migrants, they are often considered as requesting asylum by the Italian State. Globally, the labor migrants of the south have taken the route of return towards their country of origin, repatriated sometimes by the Italians or regrouped behind the borders of neighbor countries of Libya: 336. 658 people have thus gone to Libya, and 165,000 towards Tunisia. Then, the U.N has invited these States to maintain their open borders because for William Swing, Director General of the International Organization of Migrations, “it is one of the most important humanitarian evacuations of history”.
Cassarino Jean-Pierre, Unbalanced Reciprocities: Cooperation on readmission in the Euro-Mediterranean Area, Middle East Institute, September 2010, 93 p.
Wihtol de Wenden Catherine, La Question migratoire au XXIe siècle. Migrants, réfugiés et relations internationales, Paris, Presses de sciences-Po, 2010.