Austria announced that they will be introducing fixed daily quotas for refugee arrivals, agreeing to accept 37,500 asylum applications in 2016. This is in stark contrast to the 90,000 who entered the country last year.
They also stated that they will be using military aircraft to deport 50,000 people whose asylum applications were rejected.
In Austria’s line of fire lie Morocco, Tunisia, and Pakistan. Speaking to public radio Ö1, Austria's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz argued that “In Europe, we must put on the pressure if we want the return policy to work. Right now for example [the EU pays] €480 million each year to Morocco, and €414 million to Tunisia, and yet these countries refuse to take back rejected asylum seekers."
Kurz and German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel are amongst those pushing for cuts to development aid being put on the agenda at the next summit for heads of state and EU governments in Brussels on February 18-19.
In Europe, we must put on the pressure if we want the return policy to work. Right now for example [the EU pays] €480 million each year to Morocco, and €414 million to Tunisia, and yet these countries refuse to take back rejected asylum seekers.
Following in Austria’s footsteps are other EU countries: notably Sweden (who wants to expel 80,000) and Finland (20,000). Instead Denmark has opted ruling in favour of seizing refugees’ valuables to pay for resettlement costs. Hungary and Poland are busy building walls, and Austria is also pushing for the movement of the Schengen area “further north” to exclude Greece.
Germany vs. Afghanistan
In 2015, Afghans formed the second-largest group of migrants reaching Europe. Germany welcomed 150,000 requests from Afghan asylum seekers. During his visit to Kabul this February 1st, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere stated that many migrants would be sent back, arguing that they were looking for better economic opportunities rather than refuge. “There are safe and unsafe areas” in Afghanistan he stated. The aim is for “people [to] stay in Afghanistan and rebuild the country.”
However, Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriations Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi says that Afghanistan will only take back those who wish to voluntarily repatriate. “Forceful deportations require more negotiations, agreements and further discussion. At the moment, our talks are only focused on voluntary returnees.”
Many are warning against the flawed logic of using development aid as a lever to achieve EU objectives of reducing irregular migration, and controlling migration flows.
In their 2015 Spotlight Report compiled by expert analysts, CONCORD Europe states that “these policies are based on the faulty assumption that development can reduce migration, although development can also create the conditions for movement and migration.”
policies are based on the faulty assumption that development can reduce migration, although development can also create the conditions for movement and migration.
“...reducing development cooperation in some countries, based on the State’s lack of cooperation on migration issues like readmission, is likely to harm the population more than the recipient government, and could lead to an increase in emigration.”
Migration and development are intrinsically linked phenomena. By using development aid as a bargaining tool for achieving geopolitical aims linked to the reduction of migration flows, Europe is running the risk of shooting itself in the foot, and causing the exact opposite effect.
Not only that, but it is directly contradicting the recent agreements reached at the 2015 La Valletta Summit. Last November, Member States agreed to (amongst other things) “address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement, enhance cooperation on legal migration and mobility, and reinforce the protection of migrants and asylum seekers”.
What about the European values?
IPS News founder Robert Savio warns that as European countries move away from the EU, and towards increased national sovereignty, “we are witnessing the slow agony of the dream of European integration, disintegrating without a single demonstration occurring anywhere, among its 500 millions of citizens”, as “the refugee crisis has been the last blow to an institution which was already breathing with great effort.”
By building walls, seizing refugee property, carrying out forced deportations, and now talking about cutting development aid, the EU is betraying its founding values.