Dublin – The failure to manage migration is a danger to Europe’s liberal democracies

26 June 2024
Demystifying Migration
Video: IIEA

Video of the talk and debate

Gerald Knaus spoke at an online event hosted by the Southerland School of Law at the University College Dublin and Ireland’s Institute of International and European Affairs. During the event, Gerald argued that fears over irregular migration have boosted populist leaders and far-right parties in Western Europe, threatening European liberal democracies. He proposed a humane, legal migration system with swift asylum procedures and incentives to reduce irregular entries, and third country agreements with strategic partners.

Gerald noted that many of our assumptions about migration are based on the false narratives of the populist far-right. For example, while the far-right’s claim that Europe is being ‘overwhelmed’ by migration from Africa and the Middle East has received much attention in the media and public imagination, Gerald noted that most migration in Europe is caused by European conflicts, notably in the Caucasus, the Balkans, and Ukraine. Gerald noted that recent aggressive rhetoric of Serbian president Vucic towards Kosovo and Russia’s repeated attempts to break through Ukrainian lines show there is an ongoing risk of even greater displacement within Europe, should Serbia attack Kosovo or Russia mount a major successful advance. For Europe to solve the issue of migration, the continent’s leaders must first stop those who attack Europe’s rules-based order by advancing their political visions through the use of force.

Yet, despite the fact that most migration in Europe is the result of European conflict, Gerald noted that Europe’s continuing failure to sustainably manage irregular migration from Africa and the Middle East poses a major risk to European democracy itself. Illiberal right-wing parties have used this failure to advocate for an illiberal vision for the continent, arguing that only radical measures can solve the issue. Gerald argued that to counter the populist far right’s assault on the rule-of-law and liberal democracy, Europe needs a paradigm shift in migration policy.

Sketching the contours of a new migration paradigm in Europe, Gerald advocated for a balanced approach that ensures effective migration management while respecting human dignity and rights. He urged that Europe must learn from past failures and aim for a more inclusive and proactive migration strategy. For example, he highlighted the policy failures which have stopped agreements such the EU-Turkey Statement from achieving its full potential, despite its noted success in reducing deaths in the Aegean.

Sketching a better path, Gerald noted that Europe has the ability to ensure Humane Borders through the creation of legal resettlement pathways, noting the successes of countries such as Canada in bringing migrants directly from conflict zones. This would spare migrants the dangerous journey to Europe and establish control over the migration system. Gerald concluded that in this way, Europe can preserve the rule of law, help those most in need, and demonstrate liberal democracy’s ability to effectively solve the great issues of the day.

University College Dublin
University College Dublin. Photo: Flickr / Leandro Neumann Ciuffo