From Palestine Chronicle
A recent European Council summit in Brussels was meant to articulate a united policy on the burgeoning refugees and migrant crisis. Instead, it served to highlight the bitter divisions among various European countries. Considering the gravity of the matter, Europe's self-serving policies are set to worsen an already tragic situation.
True, several European leaders, including Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, went home to speak triumphantly of a "great victory," achieved through a supposedly united European position.
Italy's Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, used more derogatory terms in explaining his country's new policy on refugees and migrants. "They will only see Italy on a postcard," he said, referring to refugees who have been arriving in Italy with the help of humanitarian rescue boats.
The first of these boats, carrying over 600 refugees and economic migrants, the Aquarius, was sent back on June 11, followed by another, carrying over 200 refugees. When Italy carried out what then seemed like excessive action, the decision erupted into a massive political controversy between Italy, France, Spain, Malta, and others.
However, the pandemonium has subsided since then, as Italy's Conte declared that, following the Brussels summit, his country "is no longer alone."
What Conte, who presides over a populist, right-wing government, meant is that his country's unwelcoming attitude towards refugees is now gathering greater European consensus.
The debate over refugees and migrants has reached the point that it has become a source of political instability in countries like Germany. The latter is not considered a "frontline state," as in countries that are likely to be the first destination for refugees escaping war or poverty at home.
Austria and other countries are also caught up in the crisis, each with its own angry constituency to appease.
On paper, representatives of European countries did, in fact, reach an agreement. The real problem ensued as soon as delegations returned to their respective countries.
Despite opposition from Poland and Hungary, and Italian threats to "veto" any text that is not consistent with Italian priorities, the Council agreed on four main points:
First, the establishment of disembarkation centers outside European territories, to be stationed mostly in North Africa. At that early stage, economic migrants would be separated from political asylum seekers.
This first stipulation is made hollow simply because, as the Guardian reports, "no North African country has agreed to host migrant centers to process refugee claims," in the first place.
Second, Europeans agreed to strengthen borders control through the Frontex system.
Aside from the questionable tactics of this pan-European border police, this system has been in use for years and it is difficult to imagine how "strengthening" it will translate into a more efficient or humane border control system.