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“From Africa, there is no legal way to access Europe other than by dinghy or by jumping over a fence”

A Christian expert on political communication and migration analyses the new EU migration pact. “If Europe needs workers to do certain types of work, why not create a circular route?”, asks Noemí Mena.

FUENTES Protestante Digital AUTOR 45/Jonatan_Soriano,5/Evangelical_Focus TOLEDO 07 DE MARZO DE 2024 12:31 h
The EU migration agreement foresees reinforced control mechanisms upon arrival on the territory./ Photo: [link]Depositphotos[/link].

The migration pact of the European Union is still uncertain, especially regarding how it will affect the particular situation of each country, given the differences between member states.

This was one of the questions discussed at the conference Europe, open or closed borders?, organised on 24 February by the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM) and the Valores (Values) political party in the Spanish city of Toledo.

Among the guest speakers was Noemí Mena, PhD in Political Communication and Migration, professor of International Business and Communication at the Radboud University in the Netherlands.

We spoke to her about migration to the European continent in the interview below.

[photo_footer] Noemí Mena during her conference on migration organised by ECPM and Valores. / Courtesy. [/photo_footer] 

Question. There is often a feeling that the issue of migration has become a political weapon.

Answer. Often when people talk about this issue, and this was also the case at this conference, they talk about the "migration problem". That, in itself, is problematic, because the problem lies in how it is managed, not in immigration itself, which is part of the history of humanity and the progress of many nations.

That is why it was important for me to start the conference by defining who is a migrant. I live in the Netherlands and here I am a migrant. In all contexts there are people who are migrants, or are married to a migrant, or have a child who has moved abroad.

A migrant is a person who moves from one country to another. The reasons may be diverse: to study, to work, for love, etc. It may be for a period of their lives, or they may stay for the rest of their lives.

[destacate] “Third countries, in exchange for a small price, are given the ability to become the gendarmes that control the migratory flow”[/destacate]Today, we often move back and forth. In the past, people usually left and did not return to their place of origin. Now it is different. For example, a student who is doing an Erasmus program in another country is a migrant.

The problem is that the term 'migrant' has such a negative connotation that nobody wants to be called that. And when it also becomes a problem politically and in the media, it ends up generating this feeling of wanting to deny one's own identity as a migrant and use other words, such as international student. That has to make us think.


Q. How fo you see the recently agreed European Union migration pact?

A. The pact reinforces what was already a reality, based on the control mechanisms, which are given more legitimacy.

The mandatory solidarity of distribution quotas between countries is an à la carte solidarity that does oblige countries to apply that solidarity, but it is left very open. It can be negotiated, to the point that countries can pay money in exchange for certain privileges.

For southern countries, reception has been a problem, and there are other countries that are not convinced. If the new EU procedure is not implemented, the southern countries, which are the gateway to Europe, will continue to have the same problem.

The Dublin Regulation already stated that when a person enters a country and registers his or her fingerprint there, that country has to take care of it. I think that the new migration agreement does not make progress on this issue, and we will see how it is handled.

[destacate] “The EU has made an effort to further systematise control and turn Europe into a fortress”[/destacate]As for control regulations, border controls are being strengthened, especially the identification of persons for asylum or return. For non-EU citizens, this means a fingerprint check in a data register called Eurodac, which can be used for both good and bad.

In the end, the money that the European Union invests in this is basically for border control, so I wonder what the EU means when it talks about solidarity. The Union has made an effort to further systematise control and turn Europe into a fortress where, if possible, people from southern countries do not come.

It is also problematic to create reception centres because it is still complicated to define how long the person can stay there or the speed of the process. The new agreement seeks to change some of those things, but it is not very clear what is going to be done, or how each country is going to manage it.

What concerns me most is that all the effort goes into closing the borders instead of creating some mechanism so that people, for example, from African countries can come to Europe, because there is no legal way to access Europe, except on a boat or by jumping over a fence. The migration agreement does not give answers to that.


Q. EU countries have been signed unilateral pacts with non-EU countries: Spain with Morocco, Senegal and Mauritania, and Italy with Libya, Tunisia and Albania. How does this fit in with the EU agreement?

A. As there has not been a common response from the EU, southern European countries have explored other ways to create this control, but these pacts imply the externalisation of borders in Europe.

I think this, from the human rights point as well as the transparency point of view, is very worrying. In the end, third countries, with the support of the European Union and in exchange for a small price, are given the ability to become the gendarmes that control the migratory flow.

If all the money from this type of agreement were spent on job creation and training, it would be different.

I am concerned about the lack of transparency of those agreements. They are also part of the EU's control-based narrative. They are another control procedure, but in a bilateral way.

[destacate] “If, from the Christian values point of view we talk about solidarity, we must also talk about transparency”[/destacate]I know someone who tried to come legally to Europe and didn't make it because it's practically impossible to get all your paperwork done to be able to come with political asylum status. It is a process that can take years, which makes no sense if you are applying because of political persecution.

At the end it is not new routes that are created, but another type of mechanism to continue controlling migration.


Q. What do you think would have been a better migration pact for the EU?

A. The European Union has the problem that each country has its own interests. This is not only the case with this issue, but also with the farmers that we have seen recently.

This leads to pacts designed in such a way that they are less negative for some countries than for others. I think that, from the point of view of the southern European countries, this agreement does not improve the situation of the dilemmas about control and asylum.

One thing we talked about at the conference, and it is something that needs to be brought into the debate, is that if, from the Christian values point of view, we talk about solidarity, we must also talk about transparency.

[destacate] “If Europe needs workers to come and do certain types of work, why not create a circular route that facilitates those movements legally?”[/destacate]We cannot make agreements with third countries without really knowing what is happening on the other side of the fence. We must know what happens to all the people who arrive at the border and are sent back, even though they crossed the desert with all kinds of difficulties, and who probably cannot return home because they are being politically persecuted or suffer from other kinds of issues. Europe is not giving them any choice.

The best passports in the world for travel and visas, apart from Singapore and Japan, are from EU countries such as Germany and Spain. We can go there, but the rest of the world cannot come here.

This raises a lot of questions about who has the right to go anywhere and who does not. We have to look at migration from the point of view of the right to asylum.

If Europe needs workers to come and do certain types of work, why not create a circular route that facilitates those movements from a legal point of view and is better for both the migrant and the host countries.

For example, in Spain, with all the seasonal workers, this could help. There are options, but there has to be a political will.


Q. It seems to be a problem of not having a larger perspective.

A. We need to think about the question of identity. We should reflect on how we can achieve coexistence with people from very different cultural contexts and identities.

I believe that coexistence is the ultimate goal and, if we are committed to it, we will achieve it. That does not mean that it is not a challenge, but it requires a general reflection on this.


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