The Unsustainable Drift of Illegal Immigration

Politics - April 2, 2024

It isn’t breaking news to say that Europe is in serious trouble and faces profound challenges with regard to immigration, especially illegal immigration. It would be reasonable to expect that the penny would have dropped for European policy markers after the record-high number of illegal border crossings was reached in 2015, at the hight of the refugee crisis, with an astounding figure of over 1.8 million illegal border crossings. There is no doubt that illegal border crossings dropped substantially after 2015, but they have still remained unsustainably high, and it is easy to underestimate the figures if they are compared with the figures that skyrocketed in 2015. In 2016, illegal border crossings into the EU remained high at over 511 thousand, and although they dropped thereafter, 2023 saw the highest figure since 2016, with 330 000 irregular border crossings.

However, unfortunately policy makers have not tackled the problem head on. Instead, a mainstream consensus has settled, which consists of an unsustainable mix of kicking the can down the road, failing to tackle the perverse incentives that cause immigrants to embark on the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean in the first place, and failing to put law and order, security and Europeans first. But European citizens are not blind to the social, economic, cultural, law and order and national security problems that are associated with an ever-increasing population of illegal migrants from Middle Eastern and African countries within Europe’s borders. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why the two conservative parties, ECR and ID, are likely going to rise to 3rd and 4th place in the June 2024 European elections, and, according to opinion polls, may even add up more seats together than the traditional mainstream parties, the EPP and S&D.

Going back to immigration, last December, the European Parliament and the Council made progress on the ‘New Pact on Migration and Asylum’, a policy package put forward by the European Commission in 2020 to reform the Common European Asylum System but which had been deadlocked ever since. There are some satisfactory policies in the package, such as the Screening Regulation which aims to establish harmonised regulations on the authentication of third-country nationals on their arrival in order to enhance safety and security in the Schengen area; the Eurodac Regulation which seeks to develop a shared database to compile more precise and complete data in order to identify non-authorised movements; the Asylum Procedures Regulation which aims to make asylum, return and frontier management procedures faster and more effective, and the Crisis and Force majeure Regulation that aims to guarantee that the EU is ready to deal with crisis scenarios in the future.

These are all in line with conservative principles, as they will contribute to providing more support for Member States to protect the EU’s external border, increase the rate of returns for failed asylum seekers to their country of origin, combat abuse of the EU’s asylum system, etc. However, one of the flagship policies of this New Pact is deeply concerning for Europeans. We are of course referring to the Asylum Migration Management Regulation, which seeks to establish a new solidarity rule among Member States to reorganise the arrival of asylum seekers, arguing that at the moment it is only a few countries that receive the vast majority of asylum seekers. What this policy seeks to do is to through a lifeline to ‘frontline’ countries like Spain and Greece, who grossly mismanage their section of the EU external border, by requiring Member States to offer support through relocating asylum seekers, or if not, to provide financial support to cover for those asylum seekers.

Ultimately, this creates a perverse incentive for would-be asylum seekers, and is an unacceptable imposition against Member States who don’t want to dilute their national communities with economic migrants from the Middle East who are reluctant to integrate into Western society and adopt its values. In this regard, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is the benchmark. He defends that “the only way to stop migration is for anyone who wants to enter the EU to stay out of it until the relevant decision is made” regarding their asylum application. “No other solution will achieve the desired result”, according to Orbán. He further stated that “I am convinced that the Hungarian rule is the model. It should not be opposed; it should not be denounced. It is the only regulation that works in Europe”. As Orbán and ECR defend, it is imperative that the European migration system respects the voice and wishes of its national communities and that it is based on cooperation, not compulsion. Furthermore, the migration system must be based on two important pillars: strong borders to prevent illegal crossings, and externalisation, with consists in working with third countries to reach cooperation agreements that prevent and dissuade migrants from embarking on the life-threatening journey across the Mediterranean when the country they are crossing from is objectively safe.