“Germany should take up a leadership role towards a global solidarity system of refugee protection”

The European Union’s principal idea how to address the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea is to attack smugglers and seize and destroy their vessels. Does this make any sense at all to you?

States don’t have the right to use force in international areas other than in self-defense or with the authorisation of the UN Security Council. At least, the European Union is seeking the Security Council’s authorization, which theoretically, if granted, could make it legal. Does it make any sense? Absolutely not. Smuggling is not the same as trafficking. Trafficking is a nasty business in which people use violence and coercion against people who are on the move across international boundaries. Smuggling is a simple consensual transaction: I pay you, you move me from A to B. It has historically been one of the critical means for safety for people who are actually genuine refugees. No country will grant a visa for people to come and seek asylum. So people by definition have to use smugglers when border controls become complex. And as we have seen in Europe for example, the 200,000 or so Syrian refugees – obvious, genuine refugees under international law – have actually moved here with the aid of smugglers who are now being attacked. That is the only way for them to get here. So, as a matter of principle it makes no sense at all, because what you are doing is cutting off the route to escape which states have agreed to provide by signing the refugee convention.

And leaving countries like Turkey and Lebanon in the lurch…

Yes. Of the 4 million refugees from Syria, 3.8 million are still in states adjoining Syria. The 200,000 or so who made it to Europe are around 5% of the total refugee flow, an incredibly small percentage given the level of need and the ability of Europe, financially and otherwise, to provide for them. It is not insignificant, but neither is it a mass flow of any kind ...

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