The European migrant crisis has had its share of striking images. The death of three-year old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, drowned on a Turkish beach, brought world-wide attention to the plight of Syrian refugees. The demolition of the Calais “jungle.” Streams of thousands moving through the Balkans or packed by the hundreds into tiny boats. But few images from the crisis have been quite as striking by contrast as when a full boat of migrants on Wednesday landed at a tourist beach in Cadiz, Spain:
The moment a boat full of migrants lands on a popular tourist beach in southern Spain pic.twitter.com/2eDMFuJqlK
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 10, 2017
We’ve written at length and for many years about the challenges that uncontrolled migration poses to the European project, all of which are once again brought to mind here. But perhaps the most troubling new development in the crisis is where these migrants are setting off from, as The Telegraph reports:
Spain could surpass Greece this year as a gateway for migrants entering Europe by sea, international monitors warned on Thursday, as the number of arrivals swells to treble that of 2016.
Amid a crackdown on migration through Libya, more than 8,000 people have turned to the so-called Western Mediterranean Route from Morocco into Spain this year, compared to 2,500 during the same period in 2016.
The increase in migration through Morocco means that the Italian’s progress in controlling the migration flows from Libya might simply be diverting them westwards. After a massive surge in June that saw 12,000 migrants arrive in 48 hours, the Italian government was finally compelled to act. Italy’s navy is now patrolling the Libyan coast. In an interview with Politico, the Italian interior minister laid out Italy’s plan, which is refreshingly sensible:
The Italian minister has three requests to Europe. The first: to allocate to Africa — and especially Libya, which currently accounts for 97 percent of departures [to Italy]— the same amount of “effort and resources” that it devoted last year to stemming migration flows through the Balkans. [….]
Minniti’s second request is for help tackling the problem of migrant reception centers in Libya, where he envisages increased cooperation between the EU and the United Nations. Last week, a report drafted by EU officials detailed severe shortcomings in sanitary conditions in the refugee centers in Libya. [….]
His final request — and perhaps the biggest one — is for Europe to make a five-year commitment to invest in the mayors of the 14 main Libyan cities where migrant smuggling takes place. The best way to stabilize the country, the minister said, is to create viable economic alternatives to the business of human trafficking, which currently constitutes “the only functioning enterprises in Libya.”
The Italian plan is serious in ways that Brussels’ efforts are not. Among the EU’s only notable accomplishments in recent months: limiting exports of rubber boats to Libya. You can’t make this stuff up.
The Italians have learned a hard lesson that Brussels cannot solve their migrant problems and have taken action. The Spanish, as yet, have not. If halting migration flows from war-torn Libya simply diverts those flows elsewhere, then Europe is in for a very long crisis indeed.