Cologne’s shameful night calls for an uncompromising response from German authorities and reminds us too that no confusion can be made between the duty to receive refugees and tolerating violence and lawlessness. The response must be all the more severe because those incidents burst on the scene of a Europe that has been on the edge of a nervous breakdown over the immigration issue for months.
I would like to recall a few basic points to anyone wanting to keep a cool head and not follow in the wake of the week’s wave of emotions.
The European Union has launched a common immigration policy upon the initial proposal of Italy which, for the time being, is only on paper. Immigration flows such as the current ones cannot be regulated without the common commitment of the EU. The Dublin rules, which were conceived in the post-Cold War period, cannot manage present flows. To say that it must be the Country of first entry to give asylum made sense when entries amounted to only a few tens of thousands: last year alone 851,000 migrants entered Greece. Obviously, with numbers such as these, asylum must be European and not the responsibility of the first country. This is how things actually work but the fact is not acknowledged and the Greeks (and even we Italians) are blamed of not doing their duty.
The distinction between people entitled to asylum, because they are fleeing from wars and dictatorships, and other illegal migrants, who come from “safe” countries, must be kept. The former must be welcomed and the latter repatriated. But with two warnings.
First: to define as safe countries that are far from being safe is useless because then we are incapable of repatriating anyone to those countries (Eritrea and also Afghanistan). Second: also repatriation operations must necessarily be European as they entail legal, organisational and huge economic implications and can surely not be solved by the countries of first entry on their own.
Unfortunately the EU still finds it difficult to recognise this simple truth and tends to ignore the need for a real, gigantic commitment for European asylum and repatriations and prefers to entrust the whole issue to the «defence of external borders». It is a catchy slogan but of scarce usefulness. Migrants have to be registered and given shelter if they are entitled to it, or otherwise be repatriated. To invoke the defence of borders brings to mind something else. Are we to turn back inflatable boats? Sink them? Nobody really thinks of doing that in Europe and therefore more than appeals to defend the borders we need appeals to make the necessary joint effort following the example of countries like Italy or Germany, which certainly have not spared themselves these last few months. If we instead continue to argue and blame the Greeks, next spring we risk seeing a new mushrooming of borders and customs over half of Europe.