Europe’s migrant policy creates ‘smugglers’ market’: study

Over 1,800 people have died so far in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration

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European policies aimed at stemming illegal migration across the Mediterranean over the last two decades have failed, instead creating a “smugglers’ market”, said a Dutch study released on Tuesday.

“What we have seen in the past 25 years is that European countries have harmonised their migration policies and in the same period they made them much stricter,” immigration rights specialist Thomas Spijkerboer, the report’s chief author, told AFP.

“Instead of making migration impossible, restrictive migration policies have created a market for smugglers,” said Spijkerboer who led the VU University Amsterdam study of migrants killed crossing the Mediterranean between 1990-2013.

“In the same period we see the number of border deaths steadily increasing. We think the two are related,” he said.

The study also found smugglers increasingly using longer and therefore more dangerous routes to circumvent increased naval patrols, as well as older boats to deceive the patrols.

Local authorities in southern Europe counted 3,188 bodies over the 13-year period, a number well below usual estimates because of the way they were counted.

Over 1,800 people have died so far in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration, making it likely the deadliest year ever for migrants seeking to reach Europe through the Mediterranean.

The European Union has now put forward a controversial plan which would include seizing and destroying boats used by migrant smugglers, mostly based in Libya.

Human rights and aid organizations say that the EU plan places too much focus on a military response and should instead concentrate on broadening legal avenues for migrants to reach Europe.

“European policies now are based on tunnel vision,” said Spijkerboer.

“It seems not to work, migration doesn’t go down, the number of deaths goes up. Surprisingly European policy makers don’t sit back and reflect but they intensify their policies,” he said.

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