The European Immigration Crisis
Let the Shakedowns Begin

Just a few months after Turkey got €6bn from the EU to help stop the migrant crisis, the line is starting form of other countries that would also like a piece of the pie. The Financial Times reports:

Niger is asking Europe for €1bn to stem the flow of people from other African countries through its vast desert territory en route to Europe.[..]

Niger has become a hub for thousands of migrants travelling north to the Mediterranean shores of neighbouring Libya and departing by boat for Europe.

Brussels sees African migration as a long-term structural problem exacerbated by soaring birth rates and widespread poverty across west Africa, particularly in Nigeria.

Niger’s government says it wants to take action to tackle its migration crisis and is co-operating with the International Organisation for Migration, which opened a migrant information office in the northern town of Agadez in the Sahara desert this month. But officials say the resource-poor country needs financial help.

“Niger needs a billion euros to fight against clandestine migration,” Ibrahim Yacoubou, Niger’s foreign minister said in Niamey, the capital, on Tuesday.

If anyone needed proof that the Turkey deal created massive moral hazard, here it is. Libya recently hinted rather strongly that if it didn’t see some money, it would “open the floodgates” to Europe—but the explicit naming of a price tag here is new, and marks the next step. We doubt it will be the last, particularly if Europe makes it clear that it’s willing to pony up to non-coastal countries. Africa is full of small states producing an outsized number of refugees and migrants; why should The Gambia, for instance, go hungry when Niger gets fed? And what is due to a true behemoth like Nigeria?

Given the demographic pressure from Africa, and given that we are now in the age of the hybrid refugee-migrant (where people are fleeing from conditions that most Westerners would consider unacceptable, but also toward better economic prospects rather than just safety), the pressure north is going to be continuous.

Meanwhile, Europe continues to duck the need for enforcement and deterrence; it would rather have the police and military of Niger and Turkey carry out whatever measures they need to to keep refugees away from Europe’s shores out of sight and out of mind than make the changes in law and policy that would allow the Italian coast guard to arrest and repatriate crossers swiftly enough to lead to deterrence. There are many words for this kind of attitude; “moral” and “humane” are not among them. One of the reasons Europeans prefer to duck this question, furthermore, is that it immediately raises the need to have serious policies for Syria and Libya beyond “avert your eyes and pray it all magically gets better.”

And so, as long as neither the approach to immigration policy nor to foreign policy continues to change, we expect countries to keep coming calling—and Europe to pay at least some if not all of them. (Which will create a self-reinforcing cycle—not to mention perverse incentives for bad actors all over Africa and the Middle East.) The deal with Turkey may yet prove to be the least objectionable of them all.

We can’t help but wondering what the total cost will be should the Europeans agree to more of these kinds of requests—and how many ways it could have been better spent: stabilizing Libya, stabilizing Syria, unifying or even simply funding more fully Europe’s coast guards…

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