The dynamics of migration and displacement vs populism: The way forward for Europe

The EU stance towards three major crisis in North Africa, Palestine, and Syria, was mostly limited to a traditional role of humanitarian responder within host countries, without succeeding in constructing proactively a durable path for peace.
by Ziad El Sayegh

21 April 2019 | 16:32

  • by Ziad El Sayegh
  • Last update: 21 April 2019 | 16:32

In this Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017 file photo, Kybumba Fran, 25, from Cameroon, cries with the head of the mission of Proactive Open Arms NGO Riccardo Gatti, from Italy, as he leaves the Golfo Azzurro rescue vessel after arriving at the port of Pozzallo, south of Sicily, Italy, with more than 220 migrants aboard the ship rescued at the Mediterranean sea. (AP Photo)

BEIRUT: Significant European values such as the acceptance of the OTHER, the shared responsibility towards tragedies and its root causes, are menaced.

The European debate on migration and displacement is tied to an identity crisis and to severe populist and extreme nationalistic approaches.

EU reluctance to effectively face populist waves triggers tensions and even shakes the strongest European States, which in turn protracts the sufferings and ordeals for the millions of forcibly displaced. Integration and participation policies within the socio-economic spheres of host communities could ease ordeals, however, it is unlikely that such measures could provide viable solutions for migration and displacement dilemmas.

Unexpectedly, the EU stance towards three major crisis in North Africa, Palestine, and Syria, was mostly limited to a traditional role of humanitarian responder within host countries, without succeeding in constructing proactively a durable path for peace in unstable countries.

Such interventions proved their limitations and we must admit that prioritizing humanitarian responses without addressing sovereignty challenges and the peacebuilding process is not the answer.

North Africa Crisis

Europe’s surge towards facing the waves of migrants and displaced by accepting or rejecting to shelter such groups is inconsistent; border control alone proved its worthlessness. Europe must prioritize its efforts to support national systems in North Africa to build resilient societies on grounds of social justice, investments in the human capital, acceptance of the OTHER and respect of diversity (in all its forms).

The Palestinian Cause

Europe stepped in to set a precedent by addressing the funding gap resulting from US retractions of funds to UNRWA. The move was honorable and audacious, but Europe’s diplomatic idleness to revive the Peace Process in the Middle East enforced unknowingly the de-facto devastating policies of the US and Israel. Europe must create new dynamics with Russian, American and also Arab diplomacy and intelligencia and work out new methods to achieve durable peace and a solution, especially for the Palestinian Refugees.

The Syrian Conflict

Europe is committed to the Geneva Path, yet it was not tied with means to restrain Russia, Iran, and Turkey from repeatedly interfering in Syria. Reiterating the position of Europe on “No reconstruction funds before a political settlement is reached” is inadequate, even though it is justified, as it exacerbates the crisis and the sufferings of the Syrian population especially the refugees and displaced. Europe could build on the Brussels Conference to put forth a comprehensive and viable democratic Path for Peace in Syria.

To conclude, Europe restitution of constructive debates on migration and displacement is paramount despite fundamental differences among its members as it will help reach political solutions that could be enforced by public policies and proactive diplomacy to support National Systems in Africa and the Middle East; otherwise the EU will linger as an “eyewitness to war” providing an indispensable humanitarian aid but failing to achieve durable peace and social justice.

Ziad El Sayegh is an expert in Public Policies and Refugee crises.

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