Who cares about migrants these days? That’s the question asked by journalist Annalisa Camilli in the Italian magazine Internazionale. Disturbed by the sinkings of migrant boats and the apparent indifference of Europeans to the terrible deaths that are now a regular occurrence in the Méditerranée – more than 2,500 are expected in 2023 by some estimates – Camilli tries to unravel the thinking that might lead to such apathy. “How did we get here?”, she asks. “How did the Pylos disaster, perhaps the most tragic in recent Mediterranean history, not even make the headlines? How can we accept this flagging public interest?”
Among the potential explanations, Camilli points to the instrumentalisation of migration by our elected representatives. In El Confidencial, Nacho Alarcón summarises a textbook case that arose at the informal meeting of EU leaders in Granada on 6 October. The meeting was supposed to be an opportunity to discuss the EU’s strategic autonomy and enlargement, but was hijacked by Hungary and Poland in order to air their grievances against the EU’s migration policy. It was a golden opportunity, notes Alarcón, for Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki (Law and Justice, PiS) to lay the groundwork for the parliamentary elections on 15 October.
In parallel with the elections, a government-initiated referendum was also to be held on four questions, one of which asked Poles their opinion on “the reception of thousands of illegal migrants from the Middle East and Africa […] imposed by European bureaucracy”. The poll was widely criticised for its misleading and alarmist character, reports Alicja Gardulska for the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. In the end, 15 October proved to be a disastrous date for the PiS, which won the election but lost its majority, and on the same day saw the results of its referendum rendered non-binding for lack of the necessary quorum.
A triumph of conscience
Despite a few setbacks, hardliners in Europe seem to be in the ascendant, for now – both on the ground and also in people’s minds: according to a Eurobarometer report conducted last June, 24% of Europeans surveyed believe that immigration is “one of the two most important issues facing the EU”. However, as Olivier Lenoir, Elena Maximin and Marin Saillofest point out in an exhaustive analysis for Le Grand Continent, “on average in the EU, only 19% of people know the proportion of non-European immigrants in their country”. They go on: “In no country can more than half of people correctly estimate the proportion of non-European immigrants. And a third of Europeans never interact with a migrant (or less than once a year).”
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Another study, this time conducted across a dozen countries by the Midem research centre at the University of Dresden, reveals that migration is one of the two most polarising issues for the Europeans questioned, on a par with climate change.
The imperative of respecting fundamental rights is disappearing from the debates on migration. Instead, the issue is becoming a political football where the consequences for the public – generally ill-informed – and above all for the exiles themselves, take second place.
For now Europe’s response seems to be to tighten the screws, even if it means selling out its values, making pacts with dictators or leaving people to their fate on the high seas, as described by Claudio Francavilla of Human Rights Watch for Politico Europe. This is playing with fire. “Sacrificing the rights of migrants and refugees for short-term political gain is not only an immoral choice but also part of a chain reaction that risks having a disastrous impact on the Union and its founding values”, he warns. “The next victim of the bloc’s migration obsession could well be the EU itself”.
On migration and asylum
Lorraine de Foucher | Le Monde | 18 September | FR (paywall)
A study published in The Lancet of 273 female asylum-seekers reveals that 26% of them report having been victims of sexual violence during their last twelve months in France, while 75% say they were subjected to violence before entering France. Le Monde publishes eight heart-rending accounts from female asylum-seekers, each one bearing witness to the dangers these women face on a daily basis.
iStories | 26 September | RU
“At the border between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, at the end of the Latchine corridor, a humanitarian catastrophe is underway”, says the independent Russian investigative outlet iStories. The report, made in the “buffer zone” where doctors and volunteers are trying to help refugees from the unrecognised republic, paints a vivid picture of the chaos caused by the Azerbaijani offensive on 19 September.
Ani Gevorgyan | EVN Report | 9 October | EN
For the Armenian publication EVN Report, Ani Gevorgyan profiles a group of the same refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh who have sought refuge in the village of Zorak. In a photo report, Gevorgyan recounts the shattered lives of the villagers, but also the solidarity they are showing – sometimes towards people entirely unknown to them.
Kaja Puto | Krytyka Polityczna | 14 October | PL
In this interview with journalist Aleksandra Suława for the Polish magazine Krytyka Polityczna, Kaja Puto traces the history of Polish immigrants who went to France during the last century, particularly to work in the coal mines. From the initial warm welcome to their subsequent rejection during the Great Depression, this historical episode feels surprisingly topical.
Oiza Q. Obasuyi | Open Migration | 17 August | EN
According to a study published by the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels (VUB), migrants are victims of a European prejudice that they are less qualified than native workers. Their diplomas and past professional experience are not always recognised at their true value, so they often find themselves working in jobs for which they are overqualified, explains Oiza Q Obasuyi for Open Migration.