EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2015

Humanitarian relief and migration crises

58 - Response to immigration crisis in Mediterranean

Grade: D+
Unity 2/5
Resources 1/5
Outcome 2/10
Total 5/20

Europe’s response to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean has been disjointed and insufficient. 

Serious instability in the EU’s neighbouring regions – notably in the Middle East, in Central Africa, and in the Horn of Africa – combined with the enduring allure of better economic prospects in Europe has meant that over 200,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to the EU in 2014. The International Organisation for Migration estimates 3,400 lives were lost trying to make the crossing in 2014. Yet EU states – led by Germany and the UK – have fallen short of taking responsibility for this as a collective problem, leaving the southern member states on the front line and able to offer only stopgap responses.

Until October, the Italian navy led Mare Nostrum, a search and rescue operation that had a cost of around €9 million per month. However, in the face of the ongoing migrant flows north to Europe, this was superseded by the much more limited Triton border control operation, led by Frontex and supported by 21 member states. NGOs voiced concern that if previous efforts had been insufficient, the new operation had no hope of coping with the scale of the problem.

The rhetoric about tackling the issue at source has largely been used in defence of member states’ decisions – such as the UK’s in October – not to cooperate on missions in the Mediterranean, driven by the toxic debate on the effects of immigration within EU states. No real attempt was made in 2014 to join up border management with security or development efforts, and discussion remained in JHA Council. Across Europe, governments have been hamstrung by public concerns about immigration, allowing far right parties to stoke these fears to gain further political advantage.