Europe's Urgent Task of Saving Migrants

By the Monitor's Board | The Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2015 | Go to article overview

Europe's Urgent Task of Saving Migrants


the Monitor's Board, The Christian Science Monitor


Europe was given a vivid reminder this week of why it must come to a consensus soon on a better immigration policy. Nearly 400 people, mainly Africans, drowned in the Mediterranean when their vessel capsized after setting off from Libya for Italy. It was the worst such incident since 2013 and marks the sharp rise in such sea fatalities so far in 2015 compared with last year's toll, which itself set a record.

More African and Middle Eastern migrants are flowing through Libya ever since Europe and the United States ended the regime of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The North African country remains in chaos. At the same time, anti-immigrant sentiments are rising in Europe with the popularity of right-wing parties. And among other decisions to be made, the European Union is conflicted over whether its rescue efforts on the Mediterranean actually lure more migrants into taking the risk of relying on criminal smugglers and on rickety boats to attempt a dangerous crossing.

The EU plans a new immigration policy in May, one that may move its sea interdiction closer to African shores or return to a more robust naval presence. Politicians are under domestic pressure to be tough on migrants even as the numbers increase. Almost 280,000 people entered the EU illegally last year, a 138 percent rise over the previous year.

Europe should shift its approach to immigration to be more positive, such as bringing in more immigrants legally as low- skilled workers to pay for the rising costs of its aging population. …

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