Can international organisations (IOs) be a catalyst for change if Europe is unable to agree on a solution to the current Syrian refugee crisis and broader issues of the deadly migration into the region? The paper argues that the current crisis is not only a European but a transregional governance crisis and shows how IOs have been instrumental in framing an alternative debate on migration, mobility and international protection in the Mediterranean. It suggests a number of ways IOs can move towards influencing EU and Mediterranean migration and refugee policy.
- Two main challenges:
- current refugee and migration governance in the Mediterranean is EU-driven and risk-averse. The prioritisation of fighting irregular migration and the externalisation of border controls has driven transregional governance efforts in the region.
- regional forums (for example, the 5+5 process and the Rabat process) to tackle issue of irregular migration are mainly state-driven and are often confronted with a lack of comprehensive refugee and migration policies, particularly from Mediterranean countries.
- IOs such as UNHCR and the IOM are increasingly advocating for a more humane approach to resolving the crisis by framing the debate around three key issues:
- Saving lives: Rescuing migrants at sea is an immediate measure that will stop people dying at sea.
- Safe ways to Europe: opening more legal migration channels should be opened; increased labour migration schemes and opportunities for student visas, and increased resettlement; fighting human trafficking and human smuggling.
- Addressing stranded migrants and mixed migratory flows: This new phenomenon calls for emergency humanitarian action. The interconnectedness of mixed migration demands a more sustained and collaborative approach to regional policy-making
- The ability for IOs to effectively act on their pro-migrants rights discourse is constrained by a number of different factors including: the reality of their donors whose interests do not align; the focus on bureaucracy to manage the issue rather than politics; and the lack of successful cooperation between organisations and states with different levels of resources.
- An example of good practice is the increasing cooperation between Frontex partners organisations in capacity building, joint operations and risk analysis.
- Share the expertise and knowledge of IOs such as IOM and UNHCR to EU staff and officials who often have little migration and asylum expertise.
- Channel headquarter advocacy towards members of the European Parliament.
- Encourage greater levels of adaptive interagency cooperation that may differ from ‘business as usual’.
- Promote a transregional approach to develop subregional stategies that may mitigate the flow of irregular migration.
- Highlight the issue as broader than affecting more than European member states; capitalise on global memberships, such as with NATO and the private sector.
- Remain modest: Institutional expansionism, if not designed properly, can increase IOs’ dependence on funders such as the EU, but also dilute IOs’ objectives and thus contribute to their irrelevance vis-à-vis EU and Mediterranean countries.
- Widen co-operation with Frontex that may lead to a socialisation of EU border guards to international legal norms.
- Ensure the EU and Mediterranean partners reform their migration and refugee policies through specific task forces that could foster national dialogues.