Fortress Europe – Current Migration Trends and European Responses


Event data

25. 2. 2020
Diplomatische Akademie, Favoritenstraße 15, 1040 Wien

Migration is one of the most important and widely discussed topics of our time. The International Institute vor Peace (IIP) and the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) invited well known experts to analyze the current trend of fortressing Europe against coming migrant waves.

Following his opening remarks Franz Schmidjell (VIDC) explains, why this event was needed to be organized. Moderator Stephanie Fenkart (IIP) then presents the speakers, giving the floor to Olivia Akumu, analyst at the Mixed Migration Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. She explains the three pillars her organization is processing on. Within Eastern Africa there are approximately 4.5 million asylum seekers and refugees according to UNHCR, 81 precent of which are women and childen. Most people are fleeing South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another 5.2 million people are displaced within their home country. There are three major routes, which people use for leaving the region: East to Jemen and Saudi Arabia (the route which ist least known but most frequented), South to South Africa, and North to Northern Africa and Europe. Most of those migrants are Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis. More than 90% of people held in detention centers in Egypt and Libya are from East Africa. Akumu then explains the different reasons for these huge mixed migration numbers, which are still growing.

On the Western Balkans there is alot of discussion about people leaving their country en masse, says Alida Vracic, director of the think tank Populari Sarajevo. The numbers vary, depending on who issues them. According to Eurostat the region lost approx. 230000 people in 2019, mainly young people and families. One of the main reasons for this emmigration is broad pessimism: there are no jobs, you can‘t change the political system and the ongoing corruption, and there is no sign for a better future. Apart from the problems of an aging population there is also a growing lack of doctors, engineers etc, people essential for keeping a country running. Apart from Serbia no government is really doing anything to keep the people from leaving. All in all approx. 6 Million people from West Balkans are working abroad. They got educated at their country and then left, leaving also a huge financial hole in the budgets of the originating countries (It costs an estimated 150000€ to educate just one medical doctor in the region).

Most of the debates about migration are not about facts, but about visions, says Gerald Knaus, Director of the European Stability Initiative – and he presents the audience two of the many: dystopia – migration as a threat, destroying our European way of living –represented by a speech by Viktor Orban in Febrary 2018. And the other vision is “Open Borders”, represented by a book of Bryan Caplan with the same title, in which he explains (supported by a number of mathematical models), that opening borders would eliminate poverty world wide very quickly. In reality migration from Africa to Europa has been around 40000 per year on average for the last decades, only from 2015 – 2019 it has been significantly higher. Almost all of the 22 million visas, that were issued to African people in 2019, were issued in just three North African countries. Nigeria f.e. only issued 600000, with a population of almost 200 Million.

Knaus then gives an example of bad solutions: if the EU implements sanctions against Gambia (which is one of the poorest countries in Africa and just in 2017 became a democracy) in order to force it to take back its immigrants (15000 of them living in Baden-Würtemberg), it simply won‘t work. What might work is now tested as a pilote program: the Gambian government guarantees to take back every Gambian migrant, who crosses the Mediterranian. In return, the EU offers a number of legal possibilities for Gambians to migrate to Europe, e. g. filing immigration paperwork at a local consulate. Even security experts think that such a plan could work.

For the Balkans Mr. Knaus suggests implementing „swiss borders“ (borders wich are almost dissolved) between countries – some of these only exist for a few decades anyway and Europe has a lot of experience in changing borders.

After some remarks of the speakers on each others topics it is time for the audiency to ask some interesting questions, e. g. about the situation on the Greek islands and at the Greek-Turkish border.


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Fortress Europe Wolfgang Müller CC BY SA 4.0