The EU has ruled that it will suspend access for at least six months
British political discourse always seems wildly divorced from that of our closest European neighbours, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the responses to the flow of predominantly economic migrants from Iraqi Kurdistan simultaneously massing on the EU’s borders, and making their way across the English Channel.
While the British state is paralysed by balancing its legal commitment to offer asylum to those in need with the desire of the vast majority of voters to limit mass irregular migration, the European Commission has today taken the simple step of acceding to Poland, Latvia and Lithuania’s request to limit the access to Europe’s asylum system for the Kurds huddled on its border.
As Politico notes, the Commission intends to suspend access to Europe’s asylum procedures for six months, hold any migrants who cross in closed detention centres along the border for a maximum of four months while their applications and appeals are heard, and promptly fly any who do not have a legally solid asylum claim back to Iraq.
This ultimately applies to almost all of those on the border. The Kurdistan region is poorly governed, and its economy is in a parlous state, but neither of these afford refugee status under international law: most of the world is poorer and worse governed than Europe, but that does not mean the majority of the world’s population are legally considered potential refugees.
The unanimity with which the EU’s most senior officials have drawn a firm line between economic migrants, in this instance exploited by the Belarusian autocrat, and asylum seekers with a legally valid claim to be considered for refugee status is a significant step. If applied elsewhere in Europe, it would mean the prompt return of the predominantly economic migrants who make up the majority of the flow of people across the Mediterranean to Italy and Spain. As official UN data shows, the majority of those currently making the dangerous southern crossing are from economically dysfunctional Tunisia, Bangladesh and Egypt, and not the war-torn Middle Eastern nations of popular imagination.
Given the rapidly changing attitudes in Europe to migration since 2015, this is no doubt a necessary step if any functional asylum system for those in genuine fear of persecution is to be maintained. Zemmour may get all the attention, but when even a darling of FBPE centrism like Michel Barnier proposes to halt all extra-European migration into France for five years as part of his presidential bid, we can be sure the continent’s tectonic plates have shifted.
As in 2015, a sudden moral fervour for open borders may have long and unintended political consequences, as we are seeing develop now in Europe. Indeed, if you wish to discredit and abolish the entire system of asylum altogether, you need do nothing more than let the loud but overwhelmingly unpopular open borders advocates continue just as they are.