The Migration-Development nexus: How does the EU’s Global Approach to Migration and Mobility encourage coherent and favourable approaches towards migration?

6 August, 2020

Some experts argue that European governments have played a central role in framing refugees’ and migrants’ arrivals to European countries as a crisis. This framing of the topic has often grabbed the headlines. Media, governments and civil societies tend to focus on refugees rather than migrants due to the humanitarian and political issues the contemporary circumstances imply. The UNHCR estimated that 362,000 refugees and migrants risked their lives while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2016. Moreover, the damaging consequences that irregular migration flows have placed on many individuals’ lives has led NGOs and some political parties to bring this issue to the forefront.

The mentioned crisis framing is strategically used by several right-wing parties to foster a stigmatized categorization of migrants. For instance, the Federal Secretary of Lega Nord, Matteo Salvini, has repeatedly stoked anti-immigrant fears through the use of nationalist slogans, such as “Italians first”. The German party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has frequently called for an end of massive migration flows and have secured borders as a way to prioritize sovereignty and resolve socio-economic problems.

The representation of migration through nationalist slogans represents a risk in terms of human rights. In this regard, alarming political ideas, such as those of Salvini in Italy and AfD in Germany, can be prioritized over every individual’s right to be rescued and supported. In addition, the constant focus on refugees and asylum seekers has allowed different political movements to strategically create a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach towards migrants. Within the contemporary landscape, there is the urgency to detach from stereotypical ways of portraying migrants to promote a more inclusive and constructive vision of migration.

European policies

The European Union has developed several policies to promote coherent and favourable actions towards migration. Since 2005, the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) is the comprehensive framework of the EU external migration and asylum policy. GAMM aims to maximize the benefits of migration for all parties involved, address irregular migration and human trafficking through cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination. This allows to create a link between migration and development, as such measures can promote regular and circular migration, from which both the country of origin and the country of arrival can benefit. GAMM specifically includes four main pillars to address: legal migration and mobility, irregular migration and trafficking in human beings, international protection and asylum policy, and maximising the development impact of migration and mobility.

Moreover, GAMM’s structure implies the promotion of coherent internal and external migration policies. It frames migration as a top-priority for European governments and the countries that have adhered to GAMM’s policies. However, this framework has been criticised for the inability to keep a balanced and equal approach among all the countries involved. For instance, governments of developing countries have highlighted the risk GAMM may foster in terms of ‘brain drain’. This means that highly skilled people from developing countries relocate to developed countries.

The European Commission has acknowledged that ‘more work needs to be done to make sure that migration partnerships are being implemented in a balanced manner, i.e. better reflecting all four thematic priorities of the GAMM, including more actions with regard to legal migration, human rights and refugees’ protection. The need to move beyond a ‘one-sided approach’ is extremely relevant in order to promote coherence and effective cooperation. It is important to move beyond unilateral agenda-settings and to encourage equal possibilities for countries to be heard and put their interests on the table. This is the starting point to promote real common interest-based partnerships between EU and international partners. The EU-Africa partnership approach has particularly fostered cooperation and equality between European and African countries. Extending such an approach to third country partnerships could be one way to address the shortcoming of the GAMM.

It is also relevant to highlight the political interests which always lie behind migration policies and frameworks. Migration can represent a powerful engine for development both in economic and sociocultural terms. However, the contemporary political climate around refugees and migrants makes it more complicated for EU Member States to agree on solidarity measures as well as uniform interventions together with international partners. This poses great political and social challenges, which require flexible frameworks to intervene.

This indicates that the narrative on migration should change. The complexity and controversies which migration implies should be embraced and persistent work to readjust policies should be equally promoted. Migration is an integral part of broader transformation processes embodied in the term “development”. It is entangled in a set of political, social and economic dynamics that change through time and space. These changeable characteristics call for fluid frameworks aimed at expanding the positive outcomes of migration and promoting equal cooperation among countries.

Through the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility, EU Member States have attempted to promote more consistent and effective policies on migration, and the EU has been moved by the strong desire to promote partnerships and collaboration. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The EU should keep raising awareness on the politics and sociocultural processes taking place in other countries to ensure comprehensive and inclusive approaches. This means going beyond Eurocentric views to take into account and pay attention to all the voices and interests involved in migration processes. This would be the starting point to encourage fruitful approaches towards migration policies, shift the focus from short-term partnerships to long-term commitments, and encourage the promotion of equality among individuals at the European and international levels.

On 29 January 2020, The European Commission has announced the forthcoming publication of the New Pact on Asylum and Migration, which will be adopted in the second quarter of 2020. The Commission has presented this document as an opportunity to implement a more resilient and effective implementation of legal and safe migration. The challenges that lies ahead for the EU have been highlighted in a letter addressed to European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas and Commissioner Ylva Johansson. Within this document, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, highlights the need for ‘effective solidarity’ and ‘responsibility sharing’ to implement migration policies and tackle crucial human rights issues. Europe now has the opportunity and the obligation to rethink migration policies, make them more inclusive, accountable and sensitive towards human rights.

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