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Human smugglers roundtable: Anna Triandafyllidou

What does the EU sacrifice when it prioritises migration management in negotiations with countries of origin and transit?

What area the intended/unintended consequences of anti-smuggling and anti-trafficking policies?

EU cooperation with origin and transit countries has been on the table for at least ten years and certainly since the creation of the European Agenda on Migration and Mobility, but the issue has now become a top priority. While the idea in principle is correct, the way it is implemented is dubious. Indeed, it is quickly becoming the main axis around which all other issues are negotiated, such as trade, development aid, and geopolitics. The current emphasis on improving cooperation with northern and sub-Saharan African and Asian origin countries has been inspired by the EU-Turkey joint statement initiative.

Prioritising migration concerns may involve sacrificing a lot of other political and geopolitical priorities.

This singular focus neglects several problems. First, prioritising migration concerns may involve sacrificing a lot of other political (human rights protection for both refugees and migrants) and geopolitical priorities. Second, origin and transit countries may simply not be able to fulfil what is asked of them as their capacity to govern their citizens may be relatively weak.

Third, the implementation of such agreements requires the creation of exceptional border regimes for asylum processing (with simplified processing), as happened in Greece in order for the EU-Turkey agreement to be in line with national law. Last and perhaps most important, such a policy often puts the burden of asylum seeking (and irregular migration management) on the weakest and poorest of states, including some countries that currently do not even have a rudimentary rule of law (such as Libya).

All these issues make cooperation with countries of origin and transit questionable. The premises upon which such a policy could be based must include a basic triptych: a functioning state that implements basic human rights; the absence of civil war or protracted conflict; a significant effort on the part of the EU to provide technical and monetary assistance and comprehensive training of the asylum officers of that country (not just the border guards!).

About the author

Anna Triandafyllidou directs the Cultural Pluralism Research Area in the Global Governance Programme of the European University Institute (Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies), Florence, Italy. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies.

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