Does Europe want immigrants?

Does Europe want immigrants?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
Hugo Brady, Judy Dempsey
16 October 2013

Following recent boat disasters in the Mediterranean and against the backdrop of right-wing, anti-immigration sentiments in Europe, our experts discuss the issues surrounding immigration in Europe.

Hugo Brady, Brussels representative and senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform
Former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi played crudely, but tellingly, on European fears of uncontrolled maritime immigration when in 2010 he demanded that the EU pay him €5 billion ($6.3 billion) to stop the boats and avoid a "black Europe." The late Qaddafi and his methods are unlamented, and boat people still provoke panic all around the world—not just in Europe.

But Libya and most other North African countries are now mired in internal political turmoil following the Arab Spring. This is a key reason why European politicians can get away with responding to the Lampedusan and Sicilian tragedies with the predictable platitudes, hand-wringing, and half-measures. They have next to no working administrations in North Africa with whom to do deals on immigration, including on humanitarian issues.

Three things are needed in order to avoid more Lampedusas. First, functioning local administrations in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia need a sophisticated understanding of immigration flows. Second, the Europeans must make a serious offer multi-entry visas. Third, the EU should set up a sustained civilian-military mission to take apart a centrally organized international smuggling business with nodes all over sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Without these steps, Europe will remain trapped in a self-sustaining loop of paranoia, fear, and guilt on this difficult issue.