ROM – Europe's fragmented leaders proved during an intense summit this week that they could unite behind a grand idea: push the migration challenges of this continent farther away from its shores.
In a agreement reached on Friday, the members of the European Union said they were looking for ways to build new centers, probably in Africa, where migrants could be checked for asylum and only legal refugees could move to Europe ,
The idea reflects discussions in other places in the developed world, including the United States, how to outsource the controversial asylum process and reduce the influx of new arrivals. In the case of Europe, the proposal also extends an existing strategy to partner with African countries ready to tackle smugglers and intercept migrant ships.
The European Union says the processing centers would reduce the number of passers-by on the deadly Mediterranean, and would make it easier to resolve the crisis – to separate the most needy refugees from the migrants seeking economic opportunities. A remote check would also be the E.U. Avoid the dilemma of dealing with migrants whose asylum applications are rejected, but which come from countries with which Europe has no deportation agreements.
But critics, including some politicians and analysts, say that Europe risks losing its responsibilities at a time when migratory flows are drastically reduced from its peak in 2015 and additional facilities with poorer and less stable countries where people migrate – even minors – could live in unsafe conditions, would bring additional challenges.
"Europe really is" Turning the dice, "said Jill Goldenziel, an associate professor at Marine Corps University, who writes a book on the global migration crisis." Europe needs to maintain its own standards. It is incredibly difficult to guarantee this, and especially difficult in a country like Libya or other developing countries that do not meet the same human rights standards. "
In recent weeks, US and Mexican officials have been discussing something else" safe third country "agreement that could require Mexico to traverse Central American migrants to apply for a settlement, and the United States to repatriate The United States and Canada have reached a similar agreement.
That would benefit the Trump government by reducing the number of Central American asylum seekers in the United States, but it remains unclear Mexican officials will adopt such a plan or intend to use it as leverage in ongoing trade talks with Washington.
Australia has now relied on a widely criticized strategy to detain asylum seekers in prisons on remote islands Thousands of ace For years, they have been imprisoned and some have committed suicide.
The E.U. The agreement on migration, which also provides for the creation of processing centers in Europe hosted by volunteer countries, provides little detail on how the new system would work.
"This is indeed the simplest part of the task," Donald Tusk said Friday of the deal, "compared with what awaits us on the ground when we start implementing it."
The EU Centers in other countries would "in full compliance with international law", but not on how and where refugees would be resettled – a point of tension because some of the bloc's countries refused to accept it and swiftly dealing with asylum seekers is necessary To avoid backwater.
An important requirement, according to the experts, is that the facilities work together with external observers, including the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Refugee Agency. In a joint letter from Friday the groups said that all reception centers must be "adequate, secure and dignified".
Goldenziel said that although it is legal under international law to process asylum applications in one country before successful applicants are transferred to another country, the resulting mistreatment of migrants – and the possibility that they might be returned to places where their lives have been threatened or tortured – challenges the European Court of Human Rights.
idea of facilities for moral reasons. Gabi Zimmer, Member of the European Parliament and Left-Left Party of Germany, said that the "E.U. transfers its humanitarian responsibilities to other countries."
The E.U. Africa has longed in part for Africa because it has been struggling to make sensitive agreements between its members on how to cope with the burden of asylum seekers. V3.espacenet.com/textdoc? Hungary's anti-immigrant leader Viktor Orban proposed two years ago that the EU In Libya, a "huge refugee city" should be set up to treat asylum seekers in order to "keep the borders of the continent under control". French President Emmanuel Macron was also a supporter of the processing centers and said last summer, if migrants were In Libya they would avoid "taking crazy risks if they are not all entitled to asylum".
"It is failing to reach key agreements [within Europe] which will drive this alternative agreement," said Frank McNamara Analyst at the European Policy Center in Brussels
. Until Friday, no third country had offered to host migrants' reception centers, and at least two had rejected the idea directly.
On Thursday, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told reporters after meeting with his Spanish counterpart that such outsourcing of EU reception centers would be "counterproductive". He criticized the proposed measures as "simple solutions" and said that Morocco has always rejected such an approach to managing migration flows.
If Morocco sticks to its decision, it immediately jumps to the EU's efforts to prevent migrants from leaving the shores of North Africa. Morocco is becoming an important waypoint for migrants who are increasingly moving westwards on their way across the Mediterranean.
Tunisia, another country viewed by the EU. as a possible host for migrant centers, has also rejected the idea. Tahar Cherif, Tunisia's ambassador to the EU, told the Guardian newspaper that his country had rejected a similar proposal a few months earlier. Tunisia, he said, "has neither the capacity nor the means to organize these detention centers." The country, he said, is struggling with high unemployment and other economic problems as well as the spillover of the civil war in neighboring Libya. 19659024] France, one of the main proponents of EU migration, considers Libya an ideal location for the processing centers, as it remains the most important launch pad for migrants to Europe. But human rights groups and non-governmental organizations have long criticized EU policies in support of the Libyan Coast Guard, intercepting migrant boats and returning people to the Libyan coasts, where they are often housed in decrepit, overcrowded detention centers and subjected to exploitation and violence. The EU. said on Friday that it would "strengthen its support for the Libyan Coast Guard and other parts of the country."
Karline Kleijer, MSF emergency program manager, said in a statement on Friday that the EU's goal was "to block people from the threshold of Europe."
"They try to pay the countries for their dirty work while trying to make sure that there are no uncomfortable witnesses," she said.
Alone last weekend about 2000 people According to the aid organization, they were sent back to Libya by the Coast Guard.
Raghavan reported from Cairo. Josh Partlow from Mexico City, James McAuley from Paris and Luisa Beck from Berlin contributed to this report.