Salzburg – ESI on creating a human migration system based on facts

22 April 2024
Salzburg. Photo: barnyz/flickr

Gerald Knaus gave a presentation in Salzburg titled “Wie funktionieren unsere Grenzen,” or “How do our borders work”. He was invited by the Robert-Jungk-Bibliothek für Zukunftsfragen.

Gerald began his presentation by exploring how recent years have seen increasing panic around the topic of migration in Europe. He noted the importance of language in fueling such panic, with the frequent use of loaded terms such as “population pressure” or “invasion”.

Yet, Gerald sought to contextualize this panic with facts, noting that even with migration, Europe’s population increase pales in comparison to that in South America or India. Similarly, while hysteria grows around climate-fueled mass-migration, China has quietly and successfully resettled hundreds of millions of its own internal migrants. Gerald then noted that, for all the panic about migration from the Middle East and Africa, the EU received more migrants in three weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine than in the 4 years between 2017 and 2021 – and was largely able to accommodate and integrate Ukrainian refugees. Combined, these experiences show us that Europe faces no existential threat, but merely a test of social and political will.

Gerald next pointed out that tough talk alone won’t solve the migration issue. He pointed out to his Austrian audience the ‘Austrian paradox’. Austria has shown some of the most aggressive rhetoric against migrants. At the same time, it has approved the second most asylum claims per capita in Europe, behind only Cyprus. Similarly, Gerald noted that for all the discussion on deportations, this also not a sustainable solution given deportations’ extreme logistical and diplomatic difficulties, particularly with far-away states. Gerald noted that, even today, the most deportations in Austria are to neighboring Slovakia.

Instead, Gerald argued for increased diplomacy and partnerships. Pointing to a possible example, Gerald argued for a deal with The Gambia. Gambia would agree to take back any Gambians arriving in Germany past a cutoff date, or any Gambians convicted of a crime in return for increased legal migration pathways to Germany. Such a solution would be a win for all sides. The migrants avoid the arduous, deadly overland journey to Europe, with training programmes ensuring their success when here.

Gerald also noted the importance of Safe Third Country Agreements, pointing to the success of the 2016 Turkey deal in preventing deaths in the Mediterranean. He pointed to Rwanda as a possible future partner. Ultimately, Gerald argued that the goal of any such deal should be to bring deaths in the Mediterranean to zero, while ensuring those in greatest need of protection receive it.