Pressure on EU’s southern borders from migrants seen persisting in 2018

The EU has made stopping irregular immigration from the Middle East and African countries a priority since 2015, when more than a million people reached its shores. (AFP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Pressure on EU’s southern borders from migrants seen persisting in 2018

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s southern borders in the Mediterranean will remain under heavy pressure from African migrants trying to reach Europe this year, the head of the EU’s border agency Frontex said on Tuesday.
Nearly 119,000 Africans were caught trying to get to the EU last year on smugglers’ boats departing from Libya, more than 42,000 from Turkey to Greece and another 23,000 heading from Algeria and Morocco to Spain, Fabrice Leggeri said.
“The pressure, the irregular migration pressure on our southern borders in the Mediterranean will remain at a very high level (in 2018),” Leggeri told a news conference.
While numbers on the Libya-Italy route have declined since last July as Libyan factions and authorities — under pressure from Italy and the EU — began to block departures, especially from the smuggling hub of Sabratha, Leggeri said the crossings to Spain have more than doubled from below 10,000 in 2016.
He said the use of more solid rubber boats on this so-called Western Mediterranean route suggested increased activity of people smugglers.
The EU has made stopping irregular immigration from the Middle East and African countries a priority since 2015, when more than a million people reached its shores, overwhelming member states and fanning support for nationalist, anti-immigrant and populist groups across the bloc.
Since a 2016 EU deal with Turkey mostly put a halt to the irregular arrival of Syrian refugees in Greece, Frontex said African nationals now made up nearly two-thirds of some 205,000 people caught trying to arrive in Europe illegally last year.
Frontex gave a total figure of 511,000 of such crossings for 2016. In 2017, Syrians and Nigerians each made up nine percent of overall arrivals, followed by nationals of the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Morocco.
As the EU tightened asylum laws and controls on external borders, Frontex warned of a possible rise in the use of fraudulent travel documents and undetected crossings, citing examples of people seeking to enter in specially-designed compartments in vans, lorries, cars and cargo trains.
The EU is also trying to step up returns of people with no case for asylum in Europe. Leggeri said Frontex helped deport more than 14,000 people last year.
The EU has struggled to repatriate people who do not qualify for asylum, which is often the case with Africans trying to escape poverty back home rather than war or oppression.
Last year more than 18,000 Nigerians tried to reach the EU via Spain, exceeding the 14,000 Syrians who sought entry via Greece, Frontex said.
Human rights groups have accused the EU of failing to honor its fundamental legal obligations toward migrants and refugees.


India succumbing to ‘extreme pressure,’ experts say

Updated 19 min 14 sec ago
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India succumbing to ‘extreme pressure,’ experts say

  • Cite upcoming elections as reason for cancelation of high-levels talks with Pakistan
  • PM Khan blasts New Delhi for its “arrogant and negative” response 

KARACHI: Lamenting India’s failure to put derailed bilateral relations back on track, experts said New Delhi’s decision to call off high-level talks, as proposed by Islamabad, was a result of “extreme pressure” faced by Indian PM Narendra Modi’s government ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“Modi is under extreme pressure and maybe he will win the upcoming elections by appeasing the extremists but he has lost his credibility as a world leader by negatively responding to a very positive Pakistani call,” Tajammul Altaf, former Ambassador of Pakistan to China and UK, said.
Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his disappointment at India’s decision to cancel the meeting — between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart, Sushma Swaraj — which was scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this week.
PM Khan had initiated the idea for the meeting in a letter addressed to PM Modi on September 14. India had agreed to the meeting on Thursday but canceled a day later.
Terming India’s response as “arrogant and negative,” PM Khan took to Twitter to post a strongly-worded comment, wherein he said: “All my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” he said.
Reasoning that PM Modi and his party used an anti-Pakistan agenda to strengthen their vote bank in the previous elections, Professor Tahir Malik, an academic and an analyst, blamed hard-liners and hawks within India for the talks being called off. “Modi and his party don’t want to lose their support base just months ahead of the general elections in India,” he said.
Malik said that while there is still a window of opportunity for bilateral talks to resume in the near future, any such proposal would be possible only after the upcoming elections.
Ruing that “this is not the first time that Modi has taken a U-turn,” Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, an Islamabad-based analyst and professor at the School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, said: “He made a surprise visit of Lahore in December 2015 but as soon as his plane landed in Delhi, his tone changed.”
Drawing attention to Modi’s failed campaign promises, ex-envoy Altaf said that he has nothing new to present to his voters. “The demonetization drive backfired badly and according to the RBI, 99.3% of the money is back,” Altaf said, adding that unemployment has also surged during Modi’s regime, leading to his extreme unpopularity at home.
In the letter written by PM Khan to Modi, he had said that Pakistan was ready to discuss terrorism and that talks on “trade, people-to-people contacts, religious tourism and humanitarian issues were also important.”
Jaspal, however, said he wasn’t very hopeful about the stalled dialogue resuming anytime soon. Reasoning that the cancelation of talks and the upcoming elections were just a cover for a bigger problem, he said that “our history with our neighbor shows that India has never wanted to see a stable Pakistan.”