Sealing off the Mediterranean

BERLIN/VIENNA/TRIPOLI |

BERLIN/VIENNA/TRIPOLI (Own report) - To ward off refugees, the EU should completely seal off the Mediterranean and immediately force refugees, intercepted at sea, to return to their home countries, demands Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, stating an even tougher position than the EU's current deportation agreement with Turkey, imposed by Berlin. Kurz also undermines the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and - taking Australia as a model - proposes to resettle those refugees, not immediately deportable, to islands. Refugees reaching the EU without a visa should be placed in detention camps on Lesbos or Lampedusa. Whoever attempts to enter illegally, loses their "right to asylum in Europe," Kurz declared. Protest came from Libya. Fayez al Serraj, the "Prime Minister" installed from abroad, declared that his country would not take back refugees the EU has deported. In the meantime, the number of refugees, who have drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean, is at a new high. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) - which is itself participating in the global fight against refugees - between January and Mai 2016, at least 2,443 people have lost their lives on their way from North Africa to Europe - more than ever before.

"Maritime Borders can be Controlled"

Every refugee, trying to reach Europe from Africa, should be intercepted on the Mediterranean high seas and returned immediately to the country of departure, according to Austria's Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz. The objective should be to seal off the Mediterranean borders completely, in line with the Australian model. "Australia demonstrates that maritime borders can be controlled," Kurz declared.[1] To effectively seal off the borders, the Minister calls for establishing a "Corps of Border Guards" comprised of armed forces and police units from the EU's member countries. "Whoever tries to enter Europe illegally, loses the right to asylum here," this applies to all refugees apprehended by the "Corps of Border Guards."[2] Kurz claims that this is consistent with the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees "because we are dealing with refugees coming from safe third countries, where they no longer fear persecution." Presently, refugees are trying to reach Europe from Turkey, Egypt [3] and Libya, which are among the countries declared safe. Distancing himself from the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, Austria's foreign minister continued by alleging, it should be said, "that these type of rules in the Convention come from a completely different era."[4] Therefore, a central principle of the global protection of refugees is - albeit implicitly for the moment - being openly put into question within the EU.

Western Values

For years, Australia's anti-migration measures, which Kurz refers to, have been the focus of sharp criticism from around the world. Australia's Navy systematically intercepts refugee vessels on the high seas. The refugees are not allowed to come ashore, but rather deported to detainment centers on Papua New Guinea or Nauru, where the conditions of confinement are notorious, frequently leading to uprisings, hunger strikes, self-mutilations and suicides. Even those recognized as qualifying for asylum are not allowed to come to Australia, but are given the choice of remaining in Nauru or Papua-New Guinea, respectively, or moving to Cambodia, with whom Australia has concluded an agreement. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia, currently ranking 143 - out of 188 - on the scale of the UN World Development Report. In April, Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled that Australia's detention camp on its territory is unconstitutional.[5] The court reasoned that it is in violation of important human rights conventions to incarcerate individuals who have done nothing wrong. In February, on the other hand, Australia's Supreme Court ruled that mass incarceration of refugees is not in violation of Australia's Constitution. Unlike Papua New Guinea, Australia is commonly considered a member of the "community of western values."

Island Solutions

In addition to shutting down the maritime borders, Austria's foreign minister also calls for Australia-like "island solutions" [6] - refugees, who, for some reason, cannot be deported to their country of departure, should be "housed and cared for at an asylum center, ideally on an island."[7] The EU "hotspots" on Lesbos or Lampedusa could serve this purpose. These "hotspots" are facilities, from which the UN High Commission of Refugees and globally operating aid organizations have withdrawn, because the EU has transformed them into refugee detention centers.[8] "Whoever needs to stay on an island like Lesbos and has no chance of asylum being granted would be more willing to return [home] voluntarily, than someone who has moved into a flat in Vienna or Berlin," explained Minister Kurz. The plan to ward off refugees by dissuasion or compel them to "voluntarily" return has long been known in Germany. Already back in 1982, the Prime Minister of Baden Wurttemberg at the time, Lothar Späth, had declared, "the drums in the jungles of Africa are warning - don't go to Baden Wurttemberg, you will be put in a detention camp." Speaking in reference to the federal refugee camp, Ekkehard Gries, Minister of the Interior of Hesse, at the time, declared, "the camp is not supposed to appear attractive," "rather, it is supposed to dissuade pseudo asylum seekers. That is also what ... camp-housing, access controls and limited exit allowances mean - that's for sure!"[9] The refugee camps in Greece are beginning, in fact, to have a similar effect. german-foreign-policy.com will report tomorrow, Tuesday.

Protest from Libya

The EU's refugee defense forces' most recent rampage has provoked protests from Libya, where, Prime Minister, Fayez al Sarraj [10] - installed under German pressure from abroad, against the will of the elected government - had recently reached an agreement with EU foreign ministers to allow the EU to set up a Libyan "coast guard." The task of this force would be to completely prevent refugee boats from setting sail.[11] However, Sarraj does not accept that the EU additionally intends to bring refugees picked up on the high seas in the Mediterranean back to the totally destroyed, civil war-torn Libya. "We will not accept the EU sending the migrants back to us," he was quoted saying yesterday. "They cannot live here with us."[12]

More Deaths than Ever

While EU politicians are continuing to pursue sealing off the continent - in the sense of the German anti-refugee measures, and, for the first time, undermining the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, the number of refugees, who have drowned in the Mediterranean, has reached a new high. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) supports both the German-European anti-refugee system as well as Australia's camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. According to IOM statistics, from January 1, - May 31, at least 2,443 people met their deaths trying to flee to Europe across the Mediterranean. This is 600 more people than during the same period last year. The several hundred refugees assumed to have drowned when their vessel capsized near Crete last Friday, are not included in this figure. During 2015, the IOM counted 3,770 deaths in the Mediterranean, nearly 500 more than in 2014 (3,279). A further increase is expected this year. IOM statistics indicate that, worldwide, 2,780 people died fleeing in search of asylum, during the first five months of this year. If the 23 refugees, killed trying to cross the EU's eastern borders, were added to those who died in the Mediterranean, it would mean that the Germany-predominated EU - with its sealed borders - account for nearly 89 percent of the world's refugee deaths.

For more on this theme: Laboratories of Forced Emigration.

[1] Kurz-Plan: "So stoppen wir den Sturm auf Europa!" www.krone.at 04.06.2016.
[2] Kurz: Rettung aus Seenot ist kein Ticket nach Europa. diepresse.com 05.06.2016.
[3] See Von Lagern umgeben.
[4] Kurz: Rettung aus Seenot ist kein Ticket nach Europa. diepresse.com 05.06.2016.
[5] Gericht erklärt australisches Flüchtlingslager für illegal. www.zeit.de 26.04.2016.
[6] Kurz-Plan: "So stoppen wir den Sturm auf Europa!" www.krone.at 04.06.2016.
[7] Kurz: Rettung aus Seenot ist kein Ticket nach Europa. diepresse.com 05.06.2016.
[8] See The European Solution (II).
[9] Bernd Mesovic: Der ganz normale Schrecken - Sammellager für Flüchtlinge. In: Pro Asyl (Hg.): Tag des Flüchtlings 2001. S. 26-28. Hier: S. 26.
[10] See Massenabschiebung als Modell and Von Lagern umgeben.
[11] EU weitet Libyen-Einsatz aus. www.zeit.de 23.05.2016.
[12] Libyen wehrt sich gegen Rückführung von Flüchtlingen. www.faz.net 05.06.2016.