What policy could the European Union adopt to save the large numbers of migrants dying trying to gain access to the EU from northern Africa by sea, without opening the door to a flood on new migrant?

  • 2
    Adopt to archive what goal? If the goal is to keep refugees out then the transition from Mare Nostrum towards Triton was the right change. Or are you asking about what should be done once they reach an EU country? – user45891 Apr 15 '15 at 15:44
  • I'd avoid saying "should". A better word is "could". You don't want to invite opinions, only facts. – PointlessSpike Apr 17 '15 at 13:40
  • When working out a policy in a complex area, does one always have to start with the basic position? In this case either saving lives or letting people die. What is wrong with asking a complex policy question and expecting people to deal with decision trees as they see fit? – Policy Wonk Apr 19 '15 at 14:29
  • News today is that hundreds of people could have died. This question is not academic, we need a new policy urgently or many more lives will be lost. Below is the news taken off the BBC web site: Hundreds of people feared to have drowned after a boat carrying up to 700 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea Major rescue operation ongoing after the vessel capsized in Libyan waters south of Italy's island of Lampedusa – Policy Wonk Apr 19 '15 at 14:36
  • This question is much better post-edit. I've retracted my close vote. – Bobson Apr 21 '15 at 20:06

What is happening

The first step to find a solution is to understand what is happening. And here we have the first problem. I haven't seen any precise data on how many of the migrants are economical migrants and how many are actually refugees.
But what seems to be a reasonable assumption is that in practical terms there behave like both groups. That is to say that many of them feels like they have no choice, but at the same time they choose to came to Europe.

For instance, Russia, Saudi Arabia, UEA are some of the largest destinations country for migrants, but if you are reading this you are probably in a country that has better living (and legal) conditions for migrants than any of those. So you are thinking: «are they crazy ? Life must be bad for migrants there». And that's probably true, but their alternatives are worse.

What could happen

So the reality is, sadly, that you can't both saves migrants and not invite a flood of new arrivals. Given the current political situation in many of the origin countries if they are not literally dying in the water they will come, because the alternative is dying in their land (besides probably more people die traversing the desert). Furthermore the economical component will increase, since all of them paid to try to come in Europe and hope to recover their costs by finding good jobs here.

There is also the problem of uncertainty: even if we know that the travel is horrible, many of them don't. As I heard happened also in the USA, many of them will try to come because they falsely believes that the can remain. I have seen some documentaries in which many of them said that they would have never tried to come if they had known how terrible it was trying because life wasn't that bad over there.

Realistic solutions and why they are unlikely to be implemented soon

The constraints of your question, that we can sum as how could you minimize the number of deaths and also the inconvenience to europeans people, make any kind of typical answer impratical. That is to say many politician says only:

  1. let them come
  2. let shoot them
  3. let's not do anything and hope things turns out well

In reality the only effective long term solution would be to improve the economical conditions over there, but frankly I don't see the mediterranean sea coming back to the wealth of Romans time any time soon.

Many north african countries have problems of stability, which make any chance of a working collaboration with them to stop the influx minimal. We should not forget that many migrants pass through Libya, which is a failed state with a favorable geography, both in the sense that is close to Europe and it is hard to control.

If you wanted simply to lower the number of deaths you could accept the proposal to process asylum requests in the embassies and the refugee camps, but this in unlikely to happen exactly because it would work too well. The widespread practice of not accepting asylum requests in origin countries exists precisely to limit the number of accepted refugees.

You could improve the effectiveness of Frontex or change the rules of the Dublin Regulation, which lead to a terrible situation because they put one country against the other and so make every country fearful of accepting migrants. The net result is no collaboration and most countries violating the rules it one way or the other. Somebody is simply not controlling new migrants, somebody else want to pick and choose the best migrants, somebody force migrants to go back, somebody else divert the resource of Frontex to its own personal need. It's not going to happen because Germany doesn't want to change the situation. And so that's it.

Unrealistic solutions that will not happen

The remaining possibility would be to overcome the political difficulties of Europe by ignoring them and trying to improve the living conditions there with private efforts. This could be something like the proposal of the creation of charter cities of Paul Romer. Which means, in short, that people would be allowed to freely immigrate in a new city managed by businessmen and guaranteed by a group of strong nations. The need for political capital or any kind of public capital would be limited. Private money would provide all the resources in exchange for large gains. In theory it's a great solutions. In pratice it never happened and it doesn't seem that anybody is trying to make it happen. Furthermore, originally it was thought for a typical developing country but with political stability. Which, of course is mostly absent. The problem is that nobody want to invest when there so many unchecked militias. The only good candidate would be Morocco, and maybe Egypt. None of them are willing to do something like that.

  • -1 “So the reality is, sadly, that you can't both saves migrants and not invite a flood of new arrivals.” actually contradicts the rest of your answer and would need to be examined more carefully. – Relaxed Apr 22 '15 at 13:33
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    I think is a good description of the current situation. If you just saves migrants (=you make sure that they do not die in the mediterranean sea) more of them would arrive in Europe. Of course, as I say later, if you try to solve the long term economical problems this would no more be true. But this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, for the reasons given in the answer. – gabriele Apr 22 '15 at 15:44

Australia reduced its number of illegal boat arrivals from 25,173 in 2012 to 0 in 2015. This is largely seen as a result of stricter policies regarding illegal immigration. The EU could presumably achieve similar results by adopting similar policies, i.e. by not allowing illegal immigrants to settle the European Union.




Do not bomb the North African countries like Libya in the first place. And do not incite revolutions and civil wars there.

  • 1
    Few migrants are originating in northern Africa, they only pass through there on their way to Europe. – janh Jul 23 '18 at 20:21

Not all political problems are solvable by policy. The political problem from the perspective of the EU

What policy could the European Union adopt to save the large numbers of migrants dying trying to gain access to the EU from northern Africa by sea, without opening the door to a flood on new migrant?

is not solvable by policy alone.

To demonstrate that the problem is not solvable we can examine the migration of Europeans to "the New World" following the voyages of Christopher Columbus. Europeans were more motivated to migrate from Europe to "the New World" than the peoples already present in "the New World" were to motivated deter European migration to "the New World".

Roughly one and a half million Europeans settled in the New World between 1500 and 1800


From 1815 to 1932, 60 million people left Europe (with many returning home), primarily to "areas of European settlement" in the Americas (especially to the United States, Canada, Brazil, the Southern Cone such as Argentina, and Uruguay[23]), Australia,[25] New Zealand and Siberia.[26].

According to European migrant crisis the actual numbers arriving immigrants declined in 2016, and declined again from 2016 to 2017. Though the decline in arriving immigrants was not directly attributed to any policy by the EU or other nations.

According to Eurostat, EU member states received over 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2015, more than double that of the previous year. Four states (Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Austria) received around two-thirds of the EU's asylum applications in 2015, with Hungary, Sweden and Austria being the top recipients of asylum applications per capita.[25] More than 1 million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, sharply dropping to 364,000 in 2016.[26] Numbers of arriving migrants fell again in 2017.[27]

The motivation of people to travel to or from a geographic location cannot be dissuaded by policy alone. Policies are static words written on pieces of paper, the motivation of human beings is dynamic.


All of these people are running away from conflicts and wars, if the west stop selling and exporting arms and weapons to these regions, this would be the optimum solution for all.

one may say, the west is not the only one who is selling weapons, there are Russia, China, Iran, Japan .. etc. well the answer is the west can stop this through sanctions.

For example, let's talk about Syria, more than 9 million people displaced because of the war. 3 million of them outside Syria, more than 100 thousands of them immigrated legally and illegally to Europe. The Syrian regime used all kinds of illegal weapons in this war, and the international community still can't just stop the flow of weapons to this crazy regime. People in Syria are OK with the war, poverty, hunger, .. etc. the only thing they can't live with is the barrel bombs that is nondiscrimination weapon and other chemical weapons that are used to massively kill civilians.

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