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September 14, 2014
September 14, 2014

A new panopticon over Europe: The development of migration policy and Fortress Europe

Author: Apostolis Fotiadis Translator: Anna Papoutsi
Source: Enthemata  Category: Borders
This article is also available in: elesfr
A new panopticon over Europe: The development of migration policy and Fortress Europe

"The Minotaur", Pablo Picasso, 1936

If one examines the political developments of recent months on migration issues, they will only reach alarming conclusions. Analysing them strengthens the suspicion that  European migration policy is approaching a moment of transformation, in which the defence of rights for immigrants at the institutional level will be turned into a battle for their mere existence.

The agreement between the outgoing Home Affairs and Immigration Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and the Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano in late August, for a new FRONTEX operation in the Mediterranean, caused mayhem with reporters and staffs trying for days to decode its character. An internal FRONTEX paper leaked to the Italian press on Thursday as a draft, essentially confirms much of the scepticism that existed about the objectives of a new European operation. In essence, it will not replace the operation Mare Nostrum, launched by Italy after the tragedy of Lampedusa last October. (Mare Nostrum is a military operation during which 115,000 people have rescued in central Mediterranean. There were 2,000 deaths in the same area but, without Mare Nostrum, there would have been many more). It will function in a complementary fashion, furthering the security doctrine promoted by the EU as a systematic policy of European external border control in recent years. FRONTEX prioritises the implementation of monitoring instruments and the use of the possibilities provided by the development of the electronic border surveillance system EUROSUR.

The issue, which is to rescue people at sea, rests again with Italy, if the operation Mare Nostrum continues. If Mare Nostrum is stopped, FRONTEX intends to expand its own operation, but with very limited objectives and in very limited geographical range around the European territory in the central Mediterranean – basically leaving unanswered what will happen to those who board boats in north Africa destined to Europe but do not get there. It is no coincidence that both Malmström and the Ministers of countries that will be involved in the operation (France and Italy) have minimised or eliminated from their public discourse the word “rescue” for several weeks now.

What is happening in reality? Europe maintains the negative part of Mare Nostrum, the militarisation of migration controls, eliminating the positive aspects, namely rescuing refugees and migrants at sea and transporting them to European territory. In this way, the EU remains consistent with the two principles that have governed European migration policy for nearly a decade: the closure of the legal channels to Europe, which is the main reason for the increase in the intensity of the criminalisation of migration, and the continued militarisation of border controls.

With this option, Europe seems to insist in a stalemate that it has itself created. The dead-end is due to the failure of the third principle of the European doctrine of migration policy, which was the installation of a very rapid and efficient network of returns to countries of origin for a large number of those who manage to reach Europe. Unfortunately, the strategic minds of Brussels could not predict that the world would collapse around them when they made plans on paper, plans that cost lives every day.

European societies are, therefore, invited to walk the only road left so that the doctrine of Fortress Europe is not abandoned: creating an all-seeing system of control, based on sophisticated technological means, coupled with a policy of rejection of those attempting to reach Europe.

Essentially, with the development of European migration policy, the dream of an open liberal society risks meeting its nemesis, since, sooner or later, the scope of all this infrastructure will extend to the European population – always for their security. As for the fate of those who work hard so that the security of every European is not jeopardised, it is sufficient to look at the course of Mrs Malmström. After the excellent cooperation she has had with the military-industrial complex lobby, who, in their reports, refer to her as their “key interlocutor”, she is now taking over as Trade Commissioner, i.e. she is will essentially be the political handler of the negotiations for the Transatlantic Partnership Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP), one of the most dangerous political choices of the EU elites.

Apostolis Fotiadis is a journalist and holds the blog and twitter account @Balkanizator

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