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Force won't stop migration to Europe, say UN experts

Published 24/10/2015

Migrants come ashore after travelling in a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the village of Skala Sikaminias on the Greek island of Lesbos (AP)
Migrants come ashore after travelling in a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the village of Skala Sikaminias on the Greek island of Lesbos (AP)

Two United Nations experts have warned that force will not stop Europe's migration crisis or deter people smugglers.

Francois Crepeau, the UN special investigator on migrant rights, and Francisco Carrion, head of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers, criticised a resolution by the world body's Security Council allowing the European Union to inspect and use force against boats in the high seas suspected of being used to smuggle migrants from Libya.

Mr Crepeau said "humankind is wired for migration" and the only way to get rid of smugglers was to offer mobility to refugees and migrants.

"In the name of controlling the border, states have lost control of the border because they have no clue who is getting in because the smugglers are in control of the market," he said.

He said Europe should do for Syrian, Eritrean and perhaps Afghan refugees what the US and other countries did nearly 40 years ago for refugees from Vietnam and Indochina - implement massive resettlement programmes from transit countries over many years.

"Let's not kid ourselves," said Mr Crepeau, a law professor at McGill University in Montreal. "Europe and the rest of the world are facing mass migration, not for this year or next year but for the decade to come, at least, if not decades to come."

He said two million refugees from the Middle East should be resettled in Europe over five years, which means 400,000 a year, divided by either the 28 European countries or the 32 countries in the global north.

"It's totally manageable," Mr Crepeau said. "We've done it in the past. We can do it again. We're richer, more populous than we were 40 years ago."

He said migrants who cannot put food on their table at home and spend months trying to get to Europe will come because there are low-paid jobs for them in underground labour markets in building, agriculture, hospitality, fisheries and mineral extraction.

"Employers are actually clamouring for that cheap labour even though politicians say they want to seal the border," Mr Crepeau said. "There's part of the business community that says, 'Not too much please. We still need people'."

Cracking down on the migrants only entrenched unscrupulous employers and the smugglers and recruiters who fed the market, he said.

He said the answer was to crack down on the employers and reduce the underground markets, t hen governments could open borders and offer "smart visas" to anyone who wanted to come and look for a job, which is what happened in the 1950s and 1960s when millions of Africans and Turks entered Europe.

"No one died. There was no smuggling. Why? Because they could come with visas and work permits," Mr Crepeau said.

Mr Carrion said only 48 countries, all developing nations, had ratified the convention on protecting the human rights of migrants and urged European nations and other countries where migrants head to sign up.

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