EU Migrant Crisis: National Sovereignty or Migrants Rights


Solomon Leggjack

The contemporary world environment appears to be increasingly less favourable to the plight of migrants generally and refugees in particular – Judging from the avalanche of reports from local and international news and electronic media regarding what is now termed Europe’s self-induced humanitarian crisis as a result of the denial of passage to over 20,000 Syrian refugees and other migrants massed at the Greeco-Macedonian border.

The reports further attributed the storming of the Macedonian border fence with metal poles by desperate migrants which caused extensive damage to the heightened tension amongst these people even as they continued their sitting protest in the refugees’ camps along the two countries common border.

The global concern over the plight of these migrants and refugees have drawn lamentation and indignation from affected countries. The Jordanian Monarch while speaking to a CNN news correspondent lamented that the worrisome influx of Syrian refugees into his country (put at over one million) has reached a critical stage that could occasion the “Dam to burst”.

The Hungarian Prime Minister on the other hand, reportedly opined that Brussels (i.e. EU parliament) “lacks the power to redraw Europe’s cultural and religious identity by introducing resettlement quotas for EU members without giving voters’ approval”. Similarly, the migrant crisis is believed to be the root cause of the catalytic debate now raging in the UK regarding her continued membership or otherwise of the EU (Briext) whose referendum is slated for June, 2016.

Some of the affected countries have with nationalistic fervor engaged in assertive diplomacy to protect their countries sovereignty and quite correctly so in my view by either activating or retooling their respective subliminal mechanisms for frontier defence inspection or immigration control as a matter of national security imperative in tackling the migrant crisis.

Some of the measures according to reports include the enactment of controversial bills (draft laws) to curtail the effect of uncontrolled influx and presence of migrants and refugees would have on their national identities and ways of life – (Denmark), erection of steel fences and stricter border control(Macedonia and Hungary) as well as recourse to voters’ approval (popular sovereignty) with respect to compliance or otherwise of the EU parliament’s mandatory quota relocation of migrants for member states – (Hungary and UK). The French government had dismantled parts of the migrants camps in Calais over the unsanitary conditions and further ensured that the holding capacity is not more than 2000 migrant per camp.

What is more – globalization has come with it, increased human mobility of migrant labour and of refugees, giving rise to the growing incidence of mixed migratory movements (i.e. migrants and refugees) through hazardous sea routes – in unprecedented numbers, evoking profound fear and public outrage in some recipient countries; including but not limited to anti-immigrant right wing demonstrations in countries like Belgium.

There is therefore growing fear that EU open borders meant essentially to favour EU workers is now being linked with EU insecurity, giving rise to agitation for reform. Conversely others opine that, the refusal to grant safe passage to these refugees/migrants to their preferred destinations across Europe is at the heart of the various acts of defiance by the stranded migrants including the recent terrorists bombing in France and Belgium. The fore-going therefore accounts for the emerging tempestuous tapestry of political demagoguery where it will seem that migration is being perceived or employed as a weapon by groups, nations and state-actors.

Accordingly, finding concerted but lawful means of ending the actions and inactions of nations and state-actors which occasion systematic oppression or other acts of violence against people leading to the wide spread cross-border or internal spatial displacement has become necessary and imminent. Similarly, it has become apposite to consider how International humanitarian intervention under the principle of responsibility to protect could be conducted without being labeled as interference in national sovereignty of recipient countries; or running counter to the legitimate expectations of citizens of affected countries for security and enhanced welfare from their national governments.

This remains a huge challenge to affected sovereign nations and their governments regarding how to harness and maximize advantages of migration inflows while at the same time minimizing its negative effects for their citizens, territories, societies and to a large extent the rights and wellbeing of the migrants themselves.

Life, like moments is fleeting and irreversible when it is past; therefore it cannot remain indifferent to the plight of these unfortunate but avoidable victims of manmade disaster. Although it is unlikely that sufficient unanimity can be achieved by all concerned on how to proceed, it is also the case that it is too onerous a burden to leave these refugees/migrants to the care of the two or three EU members only.

The UN convention on the assessment of asylum seekers and refugees (including treatment of migrants) which is essentially on individual basis could be a veritable starting point, thereby help the EU overcome refugee amnesia as well as mitigate hardships caused the stranded migrants by the implementation of the recent EU/Turkey deal on the treatment of migrants as well as their repatriation from Greece and other initial recipient countries to Turkey amongst others.

Since no man/human who seeks refuge from God is ever cast-away, we can at least treat these refugees with compassion and accord them all necessary assistance they may stand in need of while at our shores. This would to some extent accord with their basic rights as humans above all other things as well as mitigate the needless decoration of the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea beds with the skulls and skeletons of these hapless victims of vicious international human traffickers in an increasingly inglorious contemporary world.