OPINION

EU border control

Following the European Commission proposals yesterday for the creation of an agency to monitor external land as well as sea borders, the establishment of a common EU border control policy has finally entered the final stretch. The proposed agency would coordinate the national policies of the individual member states and aid those nations that need reinforcement. This is, no doubt, the most important step ever taken in stemming the tide of illegal migration. The Commission proposals are of particular interest to Greece, which is one of the main transit nations for migrants. An unknown number of illegal migrants reach our country by land or sea – coming primarily from Turkey – each year, only a small percentage of whom are tracked down by the authorities. The bulk then disperses or continues its illegal journey toward Western Europe. The immigration wave is swelling and the geography of the Aegean Sea facilitates the work of human smugglers to the degree that fighting the plague has come to resemble a Sisyphean task. Given the circumstances, the EU umbrella is extremely useful at the technical and economic as well as the political level. The EU has the power to exert more effective pressure and thus force Turkey – and other transit states – to curb the outflow of illegal migrants from their territory. The humanitarian dimension of the problem should not be a pretext to perpetuate half-measures. European governments have for years been inconsistent on this issue. Although they have adopted some measures to obstruct the influx of illegal aliens, in practice they tolerate all the migrants who eventually manage to infiltrate their borders and settle on their territory. Rather than curbing illegal immigration, their paradoxical policy actually breeds the phenomenon. The fact that many of these people succeed in taking root in the «Land of Promise» vindicates hope and keeps the dream alive. As a result, a growing number of people from Third World countries are prompted to take the leap. However, understandable and legitimate as their desire for a better life may be, mass migration to the West is no solution. The problem can only be tackled with a comprehensive policy. Strict surveillance of EU borders is one aspect of this policy. Another is to put pressure on transit countries. A third is strict implementation of repatriation. However, succeeding here would require major development aid for poor nations.