Trying to get to Europe has so far cost more than 25.000 refugees and migrants their lives. Like many European citizens of good will I am not ready to accept this cost of allegedly protecting my privileges. A radical rethink of how we approach the refugee situation is required.
Fact is, that most of those dying die because they are in the hands of unscrupulous human traffickers. Traffickers have golden times because demand is high and service requirements are low to non-existent. Main requirement is ‘don’t get me killed’, yet, this very reasonable demand is often not met. Getting to Europe is associated with entirely unreasonable risk.
The time-honoured remedy for this sort of situation is to legalise! This is what we have done with alcohol, what some states have done with soft drugs, with prostitution. We know it works.
Everybody seeking our shores are entitled to a test of whether the conditions for asylum are met. Access to this test should not be associated with high risk of death. And, in our own interest, it should not be associated with our implicit support of criminal gangs making Al Capone and consorts look like choir boys.
If you as a refugee or migrant, with lots of residual hazard, can make it to the rim of the Mediterranean you should have the right to board a ferry to Europe and, upon arrival, have your entitlement to asylum checked. This would be humane and orderly, and those offering such services should only be subject to criminal sanctions if they would expose their clients to unsafe conditions.
This, of course, would not kill the human trafficking trade, because those who know that they are not entitled to refuge will still try to get in. If, however, we would only criminalise unsafe human trafficking, but allow Underground Railroad type organisations to assist the desperate, we would see much fewer deaths. And, importantly, we would be unlikely to have many more migrants trying to make their way to Europe, since we have seen that those who are determined will try to make their way no matter the risk! And governments would, of course, still have the right to deport those not entitled to asylum, even if we do not criminalise the transport.
What is deeply regrettable is that European countries, without exception, have abandoned another time-honoured asylum institution, and that is being able to seek asylum at European consular facilities in the refugees‘ home countries. We have abandoned this essentially because it works, and that is heartless and unacceptable.
In our effort to protect Fortress Europe we deny consular protection to genuine refugees, forcing them to accept the (further) risk of death to get in possession of their right of refuge. How shameful is that? Worth remembering that if we sow the wind we shall reap the whirlwind!