The ‘Rome Plan’: an unlikely solution to the migration problems in the Mediterranean

By Luca Lixi.

Luca Lixi is a doctoral researcher at the University of Sheffield, conducting research on migration governance in Europe as part of the MIGPROSP project. Read more about his work here.

Since the Central Mediterranean route became the main source of irregular arrivals by sea to the EU much political energy has been spent on how to solve the problems arising from the uncontrolled movement of irregular migrants. So far, little progress has been made in developing a humane and medium-long term plan, which protects migrants as well as looking after the interests of the EU. It is against this background that the European Stability Initiative (ESI) has developed a ‘Rome plan’ for a credible and sustainable asylum and migration policy in the Mediterranean. Gerald Knaus, director of ESI and the architect of the (in)famous EU-Turkey deal, wants, through this plan, to make the case to ‘take-back realism’. He intends, in fact, to develop a strategy that can put together principles, tools and interests. Given the paucity of proposals for realistic strategies that guarantee the EU’s values whilst also being politically implementable, this strategy should be welcomed as a contribution to debates on sustainable and humane migration policies. In this paper, however, I criticize some shortcomings of the ‘Rome Plan’. I argue that, overall, this strategy does not offer a viable alternative to the status quo as: 1) it fails, yet again, to give adequate space to the interests of key stakeholders, namely African countries; and 2) it is framed by a narrow and simplistic narrative that understands migration as being driven by the ‘pull factor’, created by the possibility of settling irregularly in Europe. I conclude by suggesting that, while it is important to foresee a plan that also includes elements such as return with Third Countries (TCs), there is no shortcut to this. Cooperation partnerships need to be strengthened with TCs keeping in mind that wins and losses should be equally distributed between all stakeholders involved.
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Migration Governance in South America: Where is the region heading?

By Marcia Vera-Espinoza, Leiza Brumat and Andrew Geddes

Migration governance in South America seems to be in transition. Following recent interviews with key actors in in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador as part of the MIGPROSP project we identify three tendencies in migration policy: ‘retreat’, ‘inertia’ and ‘change’. Together, these tendencies suggest that policy development and change in South America is unlikely to take the form of a unidirectional ‘tide’ be it liberal or illiberal, but will rather be non-linear and dependent on domestic conditions of governance and governability that shape how rhetorical commitments ‘hit the ground’. These conditions can include the state of the economy, but also other critical factors such as changes of government and political will. Read More …

“Safe return review” refugee policy: counter-productive and morally indefensible

Exploring the government’s new refugee policy, Marcia Vera Espinoza, Clara Sandelind, and Brid Ni Ghráinne argue that the process could prove to be damaging in multiple ways, all while not benefitting anyone. They conclude that it will be difficult to enforce, it will erode social cohesion, and will render the processes of integration meaningless.

Opposition has quickly risen against the government’s “safe return review” policy. This new policy means that after five years in the UK, the situation in a refugee’s country of origin will be reviewed and if it is deemed to be “safe”, the UK will seek to return the individual rather than offer them permanent settlement. The previous process, in place since 2005, was a straightforward process that granted settlement when a refugee applied after an initial five years leave granted by their refugee status. Reviews were carried only in exceptional circumstances. The latest policy by the Home Office of actively reviewing all individual cases after 5 years puts in question the UK’s commitment to refugee protection by changing the approach from durable to temporary solutions.

From a legal point of view, the 1951 Refugee Convention permits the cessation of refugee status where it is safe for the individual to return to his country of nationality. In other words, the review policy is not in itself a breach of refugee law. But it is only in very limited circumstances that returns would be lawful. Before removing an individual, states must engage in a thorough analysis of the conditions in the country of nationality. Changes in the circumstances need to be fundamental, such as an end to hostilities, a complete political change, and return to a situation of peace and stability. Such changes also need to be given time to consolidate before any decision on cessation is made. The individual must also be able to re-avail himself of the protection of his country which encompasses physical security and safety, a functioning government, a functioning system of law and justice, and human rights protections. Read More …

MIGPROSP PhD researchers’ thoughts ahead of The Dynamics of Regional Migration Governance conference

By Laura Foley and Andrea Pettrachin

As the two newest recruits to the MIGPROSP project, this is our first conference as part of the team and we are really looking forward to it. The programme for the conference, available here, is packed full of interesting papers and speakers and will make for two days of stimulating discussion. On the eve of the conference, we reflect what we are most excited about for the conference.

Laura: As part of the MIGPROSP project, my research analyses the governance of low-skilled labour migration in Southeast Asia so there are a number of speakers that I look forward to hearing, especially the opening panel on May 25th which includes Nicola Piper and Sandra Lavenex’s paper Regional migration governance in Asia: perspectives ‘from above’ and from below’. In the paper, they contrast the dissociation between formal highly selective mobility norms, which tend to reflect government’s preference for temporary movements of highly skilled professionals, with informal governance “from below” consisting of the “bottom up” mobilisation of civil society actors. In the paper, they seek to identify the venues through which these two largely dissociated processes may be brought closer to another.

On May 26th I am similarly looking forward to hearing Stefan Rother’s paper The uneven migration governance of ASEAN where he explores the uneven governance response to labour migration in Southeast Asia, notably the ‘glaring governance deficit’ of lower-skilled migration. Rother’s contribution will analyse how the governance deficit is addressed by the vibrant civil society in the region who provide ‘migration governance from below’. This is of particular interest as civil society organisations in Southeast Asia are some of the actors that will be included in my research. Read More …

The Dutch aren’t turning against immigration – the salience of the immigration issue is what drives Wilders’ support

by James Dennison, Andrew Geddes, and Teresa Talò

The key story in the 2017 Dutch election campaign so far has been the high levels of support for Geert Wilders’ PVV in opinion polls. But what explains the PVV’s ability to attract voters? James Dennison, Andrew Geddes and Teresa Talò write that although Wilders’ success is frequently linked to hardening views on immigration, attitudes toward immigration in the Netherlands have actually remained fairly stable. The real root of the PVV’s support lies in the salience of the immigration issue itself, partially heightened by media coverage of recent increases in the numbers of migrants entering the country.

2017 has been widely billed as a year of potentially momentous elections across Europe, including in Germany, France and, on 15 March, in the Netherlands. Some commentators have speculated about a domino effect that would see mainstream governments fall as part of a pan-Western backlash against globalisation and high levels of immigration following the British EU referendum and American presidential election of 2016. At first glance, the Dutch election supports this interpretation: polls suggest that the anti-immigration PVV – led by Geert Wilders – may win the most seats of any party in the House of Representatives. If Wilders’ party comes first, should we interpret the result as another example of surging public demand for an end to immigration? Or are such election results less indicative of a radical change in public attitudes than has thus far been assumed? Read More …

Argentina’s restrictive turn on migration: Trump’s first imitator in the Americas?

by Diego Acosta and Leiza Brumat

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Argentina’s history and national identity are inextricably linked to immigration. Indeed, between 1880 and 1930 the country was the world’s second largest recipient of migrants, behind only the US. The immigration policies of both nations were often aligned during the period. In 1902, for example, Argentina adopted a law facilitating the expulsion of foreigners amid concerns about labour movements and anarchists; in 1903 the US banned the naturalization of anarchists. After the US approved its 1917 Immigration Act, which excluded from entry numerous groups including epileptics, alcoholics, criminals, beggars, and those with a physical disability, Argentina quickly reacted with similar laws in 1919 and 1923, fearful that those denied permission to disembark in US ports would continue their journeys to Buenos Aires. Read More …