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a violent response to an imagined risk

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Simply within the month of November 2021, migrant boats have capsized within the central Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic, the Aegean and the English Channel.

The official dying toll on the exterior borders of the EU stands at over 1,600 up to now this 12 months, although acknowledged to be a large underestimate. On the similar time, individuals have frozen and starved to dying at EU land borders to Belarus. Most of those that have misplaced their lives seem to have finished so on EU territory.

Folks searching for security and safety are dying inside and throughout Europe. Whereas they’re clearly in danger themselves, on precarious boats or in forests within the winter, they’ve been portrayed as a danger to Europe that wants defending towards. The whipping up of defence narratives by connecting migration with safety dangers isn’t new, however has not misplaced any political efficiency.

Within the case of the Poland-Belarus border, individuals on the transfer have been known as “weapons” and “hybrid threats”. The EU defines hybrid threats as a mix of ways used to “exploit the vulnerabilities of the EU” whereas “remaining beneath the edge of formal warfare”.

In line with Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, migrant crossings through Belarus are the best risk that the EU has confronted in many years. Morawiecki says “we’re coping with a brand new sort of conflict, a conflict through which migrants are weapons”.

In response to this ostensible conflict, Poland has additional militarised its border, finishing up mass “pushback” operations to power migrants again into Belarus, and making a de facto rights-free zone. Docs, non-governmental organisation staff and journalists are prohibited from coming into, and consequently, we’re studying of human rights violations largely by these subjected to them.

Poland systematically breaches worldwide regulation and refugee conventions and doesn’t, in accordance with authorized specialists “even purport to hide its disrespect of EU asylum and migration regulation”.

This might have worsened current tensions between Poland’s authorities and the EU. Poland, together with Hungary, has lengthy been thought of a moderately “rogue” EU member state exhibiting indicators of democratic backsliding resulting from its failure to respect EU guidelines, the primacy of EU regulation and judicial independence.

EU solidarity

One may assume that forcibly pushing individuals searching for safety again into the arms of a dictator would trigger alarm bells to ring all through Europe. And but Poland’s radical “no entry” coverage has earned help from the EU degree. The European Fee has made clear that it stands in “solidarity with the Member States on the entrance line”.

Tweeting “when one in all us is attacked, we’re all attacked”, the fee has proposed permitting additional discount of migrants’ rights on the border. The proposal would prohibit the place migrants can declare asylum to particular areas on the border and permit them to be detained there for a significantly longer interval of 16 weeks.

Fee president Ursula von der Leyen has joined the trouble to show migration right into a safety risk: “Let’s name it what it’s: it is a hybrid assault to destabilise Europe.”

In a tweet, European Council president Charles Michel additionally supplied “full EU solidarity with #Poland … dealing with hybrid assault from #Belarus”.

Ursula von der Leyen has made the European Fee’s help for Poland’s border method clear.
Toms Kalnins / EPA-EFE

Such EU solidarity with member states, regardless of overwhelming proof of migrant rights violations, isn’t new. Regardless of its implication in mass pushback operations, Greece, depicted as Europe’s “defend”, was lauded by Von der Leyen in spring 2020. “I’m absolutely dedicated to mobilising all the required operational help to the Greek authorities,” she stated.

Why is the European Fee, an establishment that cherishes its picture because the EU’s humane and ethical compass, selecting to face with member state governments extensively condemned for migrant rights violations?

One potential clarification might be that the present European Fee has realised that participating in rhetorical balancing acts in issues of migration is now not politically expedient or mandatory. The Juncker Fee was repeatedly criticised by the likes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for being too mushy on migration. In distinction, the fee beneath Von der Leyen seems to have adopted Orbán’s name in 2019 for “a brand new fee … with a brand new method”.

Moderately than downplaying and concealing the EU’s energetic position in making a violent and lethal migrant deterrence regime, the fee has gone on the offensive. That is exemplified within the EU’s dealing with of migration, together with EU border company Frontex’s involvement in mass pushback operations, and the financing of authoritarian regimes and militia forces in Libya to outsource border management.

What we at present see unfolding alongside the EU’s exterior borders isn’t a collection of unlucky tragedies, however the consequence of coverage choices made within the identify of defending Europe towards an imagined risk. Via its unwavering help for Poland’s migrant rights violations, the present fee sends a sign to all those that imagine that violent deterrence is the one response to precarious migration.

Whereas the dying toll on the exterior borders of the union retains rising, we see different defenders come onto the scene. Alongside the border to Belarus, atypical Polish residents have begun to light up their properties with inexperienced lights at night time to sign that folks in want are welcome to hunt shelter. In doing so, they defy the efforts of each EU member states and establishments to painting individuals on the transfer as safety threats. By providing refuge, they open their properties to not weapons, however people.

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