Senegal migration conference: legal aspects of migration

George Joseph from Caritas Sweden, Karin Keil from Caritas Austria and Belinda Mumcu from Caritas Turkey listen to Fr Jerome from Caritas Mauritania. He's telling them about the shocking conditions of migrants who have been abandoned in the desert of Mali and have set up camp and live in appalling conditions. Credit: Caritas/Michelle Hough

By George Joseph, Director of the Migration department for Caritas Sweden

The Algerian government dumps migrants in the middle of the desert in Mali and they are just left there. This is the reality of migrants not only sent back to Algeria, but also Libya and Morocco. Hundreds of people die in the desert as a result.

Sometimes, migrants are sent back to countries where they are held in detention camps where their human rights are abused.

European Union countries send migrants back to these places. The EU’s borders are extended far beyond those of its countries. Where migrants are concerned, the borders of non-EU countries are becoming European borders.

The EU has bilateral agreements with bordering states such as Libya and Algeria whereby they take back their own citizens who have attempted to migrate but also nationals from a third country. They do this in exchange for financial support and development aid. Money talks, as they say.

So what does this mean? It means border states prevent third country nationals from passing through to come to Europe. Or else, people are sent back there who have tried to migrate to Europe.

This infringes on international law which says that a state shouldn’t send people to a country where their security is not guaranteed. As there’s no sanctioning mechanism for these laws, it can only be hoped that countries are guided by their moral sense.

What are needed are safe legal channels of entry and proper humane migration policies. Immigration countries need to acknowledge that there’s a need for labour in the service, construction and agricultural sectors.

We need to address the fear of people in host countries about migrants “stealing their jobs” as this fear is sometimes based on perception rather than reality.

A country cannot be a fortress and cannot claim to be humane and yet have extremely restrictive migration policies. As long as inequality and poverty exist people will move.

At the moment capital is allowed to flow, but not always human beings. But in a globalised world, no country can live as an island.

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Filed under Advocacy, Africa, Europe, Migration, Senegal, Sweden, Women

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