Demographic growth, climate change, the search for better life opportunities and the conflicts troubling the Middle East and large areas of the African continent are contributing to generate migratory flows that are putting a serious strain on Italy, Greece and EU Member States’ capacity (in 2015 more than 1.5 million people entered, fortunately this number has fallen drastically in 2017, registering around 171.000 people entered). Europe can hardly succeed, in a phase of prolonged stagnation, to socially and economically integrate the masses of individuals who will pour over the next 20 years to the European continent also, unfortunately, increasing social tensions.

The demographic dynamics present us with future scenarios in which, in the absence of an effective control of access and incisive actions to limit the structural causes behind migration, serious phenomena of rejection, ghettoization and ethnic / religious polarization can be generated, to which a militant Islam could provide ideological cover with all the associated security risks.

To tackle the problem at its roots, the European Union has set up an Emergency Fund for the African Continent (Emergency Trust Fund for Africa) with a budget of around € 2.5 billion. The fund is largely devoted to job creation and economic development, especially for young people and women in local communities. The European Commission has also published an Agenda for Migration (European Agenda on Migration) which indicates among the measures to be implemented, the fight against criminal networks that manage human trafficking, the inclusion of migration issues among the components of the security and defense missions in Africa and the strengthening of Frontex (the European Agency for External Borders).

It is necessary to substantially increase the endowment of the Fund for Africa (and to control its effective use), increase the operations to combat criminal networks that organize trafficking, achieve the Integrated Border Management (IBM) through the establishment of a 

Private European Public Partnership that, by involving the industrial sector and institutional actors, can implement both a technological research plan and allow the development and acquisition of advanced skills to combat illegal immigration.

Does Europe have to fight immigration?

Migrations are a constant in history and will continue to be so in the future. Between 1860 and 1885, for example, more than 10 million departures from Italy were registered. While it is an obligation to welcome refugees from war  zones, this does not apply to economic migrants, who are the majority of those arriving in Italy, mainly from West and Sub-Saharan Africa.

These generally have very low levels of education and, not finding a job, sometime these are forced to beg or commit crimes to survive. Immigrants are estimated at 21% of the European prison population and prisons often turn into training academies for jihadists. On the other hand, the predictions of an exponential increase of the population in Africa are very alarming for which it is expected that the phenomenon will seriously aggravate in the coming years. (According to UNHCR data, between January 1 and April 30, 2017, 37.142 people have landed in Italy).

The European Union seems at the moment unable to find a solution to this problem and  this generates a growing sense of insecurity among citizens.

Bur the Joint Statement “Europe – the continent of solidarity”, on the occasion of the International Migrant Day on December 17 stated that progressively, a more united approach to dealing with migration is emerging, internally and externally. Internally, work has been intensified on the reform of the Common European Asylum System to put in place a more effective and fair approach, based on solidarity and responsibility, alongside continuous support to the  Member States most exposed and reinforced cooperation progressively put in place a genuine external dimension of its migration policy, complementing and reinforcing its actions within the Union. The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development recognizes the positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development.

Immigration indeed should be controlled by allowing the entry of those who actually escape from dramatic situations but by seriously selecting those who enter for economic reasons (for example by defining a European list of «safe countries of origin» much wider than the current one). The EU also is working on opening up safe and legal pathways through resettlement – to allow those in need of protection to come to Europe without having to risk their lives in the desert and at sea. It is also essential to implement the necessary measures to integrate those in our society who will be given the opportunity to settle in Europe.

Italy for example launched the National Integration Plan. Rather than targeting all migrants, the plan is aimed specifically at people holding refugee or subsidiary protection status, of which there are almost 75,000 in Italy. In return 

for agreeing to respect Italian values and play an active part in their new communities by working, volunteering, and socializing, migrants in this group will be put on waiting lists for homes and jobs. The plan has been financed with EU funds and put together with collaboration from various government ministries, local authorities, and non- governmental organizations.

It is also clear that integration takes time and is only possible in the presence of «manageable» numbers. Finally, it is evident that Italy, as the country of migration, cannot sustain the impact of this flow alone. Legislative tools and operational solutions are needed to enable integrated European management of the phenomenon. As the former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema said during a conference in Prague in 2017: the EU “cannot tolerate countries that do not respect the law that is based on our fundamental values and those values are to respect human rights”. He added: “The only way to solve the crisis is to share the burden. It is not acceptable for Germany to take 1 million refugees and for some EU states to simply say no. In that case, sanctions are needed.”

Francesca Villani, assists Mrs. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, former EU Commissioner for External Relations and Neighborhood Policy, at Cremades & Calvo Sotelo, Madrid.

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