The European migratory pact ignores the claims of Spain

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The new roadmap does not resolve the demand for a mandatory solidarity mechanism to relieve pressure from countries of entry

The new European pact on migration and asylum contains almost everything that Spain did not want and contains almost nothing of what it wanted. The roadmap that will guide migration policy in the EU does not resolve the Spanish demand for a mandatory solidarity mechanism to alleviate pressure from migrant entry countries and imposes new express border procedures that Madrid does not share. The result of nine months of negotiations was foreseeable. Madrid did not hold much hope of seeing its aspirations, rejected by the Eastern and Northern countries, reflected in the new document. It is a minimum proposal that Spain will not reject outright, but neither will it applaud.

The proposal presented this Wednesday in Brussels reflects the pressure from countries such as Hungary and Poland, which refuse to allow cooperation between member states to include asylum seekers in their territories, and reduces solidarity to flexible mechanisms that each state can decide according to your convenience. Partners can choose between relocating migrants, logistically supporting countries with the most migratory pressure, or managing and financing expulsions. This approach, which is one of the pillars of the pact, does not respond to the demands of Madrid that demanded during the negotiations an “equitable distribution” of responsibility and a “mandatory solidarity” based on the relocation of people.

Spain did not require fixed quotas for the distribution of migrants, a formula that already failed in 2015 and was discarded from the beginning, but it did require its partners to undertake to welcome part of the asylum seekers who arrive on its shores, taking into account its status as a country of entry for irregular immigration and the responsibility that, unlike other of its partners, it does assume in rescues in the Mediterranean.

The aid of other countries to expel migrants, proposed by the Commission as an effective means of solidarity, does not represent a great change for Spain either, which, despite being slightly below the European average of 32%, maintains a policy of forced return quite oiled. Spain has more than thirty migratory and readmission agreements with third States and cultivates privileged relationships with the countries of origin of the main nationalities –– Morocco and Algeria, especially –– that arrive on its territory. Although, in terms of border control, Spain can take advantage of a community strategy that allocates more funds to the countries of origin, it seems unlikely that Madrid can benefit from the diplomatic muscle of partners that do not maintain relations with the countries of origin of

Furthermore, Madrid was not in favor of trusting the new immigration policy to expedite the forced return of immigrants, as the proposal has finally reflected. For the Spanish authorities, who have been promoting cooperation policies with African States since 2006, expulsions are a weak tool if a true relationship of trust is not worked out and they are first-hand witnesses of the difficulty in achieving it.

The wording of the new European pact contemplates three poorly defined scenarios in which a mandatory contribution mechanism would be activated, but it is again an à la carte mechanism and it is not clear that Spain is going to benefit from it.

This more binding solidarity would be activated at the request of the affected country in the face of shipwrecked disembarkation, crisis situations or in the face of very high migratory pressure at specific times. The first scenario is already designed to benefit Malta and Italy, which are reluctant to accept the landing of NGO rescue ships, and does not take into account the Spanish reality that is committed to a public maritime rescue service. For the Spanish authorities, community solidarity must also be demonstrated with a migrant who throws himself into the sea and is rescued by an NGO or Maritime Rescue.

The lack of definition of the other two crisis frameworks leaves up in the air how it will affect Spain in its particular migratory context and if with a rebound in arrivals like the current one in the Canary Islands, for example, it could benefit from the solidarity of its neighbors.

Nor does Spain share the model proposed by Brussels to quickly screen newcomers and separate them between economic immigrants – therefore expellable – or potential refugees. The pact proposes an express procedure at the border to discard those who would not have the right to remain in European territory and expel them in the shortest possible time, but the formula is not liked in Madrid. Spain has defended these months that asylum is a right that must be exercised voluntarily and not forcibly at the border, and has shown concern about a model that, foreseeably, will require the retention of immigrants and that may have a difficult fit in the current framework Spanish legislative.

Spain has a migration reality very different from that of most of its European partners that is not always understood in international summits. In addition to being a country of entry for irregular immigration by sea, as are also Italy or Greece, Spain is also the main recipient of asylum seekers and the vast majority do not arrive by boat, but by plane.

There were more than 118,000 requests in 2019 and the profile of applicants (Venezuelans, Colombians and Central Americans) is more similar to that of the United States than that of Germany. “Our irregular entries [cerca de 32.000, en 2019], they are not so relevant if we compare them with our asylum applications. Why is migration policy still being reduced to the geographic border and irregular crossings? ”Asks Blanca Garcés, a researcher at the CIDOB laboratory of ideas. “They are great political gestures in the face of manageable and relatively insignificant numbers and it is not taken into account that if this is also an asylum pact, it should contemplate broader visions”, he reflects.


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