Vi samler feltarbeidere, politikere, miljø- og helseeksperter til paneldebatt: Hvordan skal vi behandle de globale helsekonsekvensene av klimaendringene?
Klimaendringer utgjør kanskje den største
trusselen mot fremtidens globale helse. Det er grunn til å frykte flere
humanitære kriser: Kraftigere sykloner, flom, hetebølger og tørke vil ramme
stadig flere og drive millioner på flukt. Dårlig matsikkerhet og vannmangel kan
bidra til å destabilisere hele regioner. Underernæring og infeksjonssykdommer
som diare, malaria og denguefeber vil øke og true fremgangen for grunnleggende
globale helsemål. Konsekvensene for liv og helse vil være store og alvorlige.
Den rikeste delen av verden står bak de største utslippene, den fattigste
– med dårligst tilgang på helsetjenester – rammes hardest av dem. Det skaper
flere pasienter det blir vanskeligere å nå. Leger Uten Grenser er tilstede i
mange av områdene som er mest utsatt, og ser allerede konsekvensene på nært
Hvordan kan vi skape økt forståelse for sammenhengen mellom klimaendringer og helse?
Hvordan kan Norge bidra til å gjøre sårbare land bedre rustet til å møte helseutfordringene knyttet til klimaendringer?
Hva kan frivillige organisasjoner som Leger Uten Grensers rolle være i dette arbeidet?
09:00 – Kaffe & rundstykker
09:15 – Velkomst og introduksjon ved
debattleder Eirik Bergesen
A simple, moving ceremony for the people who
died at sea on October 7, 2019 took place today in the small island of
Lampedusa. Only a few days ago Lampedusa commemorated the anniversary of the
tragegy that occured on October 3, 2013 when over 360 persons lost their lives
in the Mediterranean waters after the fishing boat that was transporting around
500 people began sinking a few hundred metres from the coast. Thousands of
people have died in the Mediterranean Sea in the past few years in the attempt
to reach Europe. What happened two days ago was only the most recent episode in
this human-made, ongoing catastrophe.
According to the latest figures, at least 40
people lost their lives on October 7, including an infant who was born on the
boat during the trip, and many are still missing. All the 13 bodies that have
been initially pulled out of the sea were
women. Only four of them have been identified by the 21 survivors.
Raised anchor in Sfax, the boat got into
trouble a few miles from the coast of Lampedusa. The engine stopped working
properly, and water started flooding into the bottom of the boat where a group
of Sub-Saharan women were sitting with their children. The boat capsized when
approached by the coast guard, pouring all the Sub-Saharans and
Tunisians onboard in the water. Two Tunisian guys told me that, right before
the boat capsized, they have been able to through a pregnant woman on the coast
guard vessel. In the dark water, they said, it was chaos. “People who could not
swim tried to grab us. They can pull you down, they make you drown,” one of
them said. “The only thing you can do is to swim away and reach the
A sense of loss
pervaded today’s ceremony. Not only for the persons who didn’t make, but also
for the idea of Europe, itself drowned with those who believed in it.
Laura Nader once asked: “Is there anything more fundamental to what makes
humans human than ideas of right or wrong?” That is a good question. Every
discussion about migration, borders and refugees seems to be dominated by
pragmatic approaches: Is it convenient, in economic terms, for Europe to
welcome high numbers of migrants? Are they really “high numbers”? Are
protectionist national regulations in conflict with international law? Who is
legally responsible for the boats filled with migrants in need of help in the
Mediterranean? These are pertinent questions. Yet, they don’t address the core
issue, which is rather a matter of right and wrong. I struggle with the thought
of how anyone with a basic moral attitude towards humanity can think that it is
right that some people have passports and are free to move around while others
don’t even have a passport (or have a passport that “doesn’t count” in the
international mobility) and are denied this basic right.
Open borders is the
only possible answer to the current dismantling of the European project and,
more profoundly, of ideals of solidarity, fraternity and equality. We need open
borders simply because it is the right thing to do. It should not be contingent
on an analysis of pros and cons, or on considerations of an economic, legal and
political nature. The arrogant and violent language of a transnational class of
political figures, the tyranny of financial capitalism, the disintegration of
socialist ideologies, and the rising of a vulnerable underclass at the European
level has transformed a matter of right and wrong into a battle among the poor.
“Migrants steal our jobs”, “They receive more benefits than us”, “Italians first”
(tragically reproducing Donald Trump’s deplorable motto “America first”). These
discourses signal the victory of dominant classes over the subalterns. Local
populations in hotspot locations like Lampedusa have shown great solidarity in
the past years, often against the will of national governments. But
anti-migrant sentiments seem to prevail all over Europe at this point in
history. Qualitative studies have extensively demonstrated that irregular
migration is a huge business for those in power and for criminal organizations.
Whoever today reiterates ideologies of closed borders that hinders mobility
becomes complicit in a business whose profit is made from human suffering and
It is always
illuminating to try to explain complex things in simple ways. Now, try to
explain the politics of borders to a child. How can we explain to a child that
some people, who are in dire need, cannot cross a border to enjoy refuge and
care in search for a better life? Unscrupolous pragmatists would say that you
do that by explaining the child that we have to protect “us” first, that we
have to secure jobs for ourselves first, and that this is “our land”. I have
deep concerns about who that child will be tomorrow.
A simple, moving ceremony for the people who died at sea on October 7, 2019 took place today in the small island of Lampedusa. Only a few days ago Lampedusa commemorated the anniversary of the tragegy that occured on October 3, 2013 when over 360 persons lost their lives in the Mediterranean waters after the fishing boat that was transporting around 500 people began sinking a few hundred metres from the coast. Thousands of people have died in the Mediterranean Sea in the past few years in the attempt to reach Europe. What happened two days ago was only the most recent episode in this human-made, ongoing catastrophe. According to the latest figures, at least 30 people lost their lives on October 7 and 17 are still missing. All the 13 bodies that have been pulled out of the sea were women. Only four of them have been identified by the 22 survivors.
The boat got into trouble a few kilometres from the coast. The boat’s engine stopped working properly, and water started flooding into the bottom of the boat where a group of Sub-Saharan women who had boarde in Libya were sitting with their children (a group of around 15 Tunisians had joined later in Sfax).
A sense of loss pervaded today’s ceremony. Not only for the persons who didn’t make, but also for the idea of Europe, itself drowned with those who believed in it.
The anthropologist Laura Nader once asked: “Is there anything more fundamental to what makes humans human than ideas of right or wrong?” That is a good question. Every discussion about migration, borders and refugees seems to be dominated by pragmatic approaches: Is it convenient, in economic terms, for Europe to welcome high numbers of migrants? Are they really “high numbers”? Are protectionist national regulations in conflict with international law? Who is legally responsible for the boats filled with migrants in need of help in the Mediterranean? These are pertinent questions. Yet, they don’t address the core issue, which is rather a matter of right and wrong. I struggle with the thought of how anyone with a basic moral attitude towards humanity can think that it is right that some people have passports and are free to move around while others don’t even have a passport (or have a passport that “doesn’t count” in the international mobility) and are denied this basic right.
Open borders is the only possible answer to the current dismantling of the European project and, more profoundly, of ideals of solidarity, fraternity and equality. We need open borders simply because it is the right thing to do. It should not be contingent on an analysis of pros and cons, or on considerations of an economic, legal and political nature. The arrogant and violent language of a transnational class of political figures, the tyranny of financial capitalism, the disintegration of socialist ideologies, and the rising of a vulnerable underclass at the European level has transformed a matter of right and wrong into a battle among the poor. “Migrants steal our jobs”, “They receive more benefits than us”, “Italians first” (tragically reproducing Donald Trump’s deplorable motto “America first”). These discourses signal the victory of dominant classes over the subalterns. Local populations in hotspot locations like Lampedusa have shown great solidarity in the past years, often against the will of national governments. But anti-migrant sentiments seem to prevail all over Europe at this point in history. Qualitative studies have extensively demonstrated that irregular migration is a huge business for those in power and for criminal organizations. Whoever today reiterates ideologies of closed borders that hinders mobility becomes complicit in a business whose profit is made from human suffering and human exploitation.
It is always illuminating to try to explain complex things in simple ways. Now, try to explain the politics of borders to a child. How can we explain to a child that some people, who are in dire need, cannot cross a border to enjoy refuge and care in search for a better life? Unscrupolous pragmatists would say that you do that by explaining the child that we have to protect “us” first, that we have to secure jobs for ourselves first, and that this is “our land”. I have deep concerns about who that child will be tomorrow.
A joint special issue of Disasters and Development Policy Review discusses the role of technology both in disasters and in development contexts more broadly. The special issue is a compilation of articles on the topic previously published in one of the two journals, and it features contributions from several NCHS associates. The articles in this issue will be free to access until the end of April 2020, and the special issue can be accessed here.
their paper Rethinking Access: How Humanitarian Technology Governance Blurs
Control and Care by Katja Lindskov
and Larissa Fast the role of
digital technology in humanitarian governance is examined. The article looks at
the governance of technologies and the digitalized data they produce, before
tying such insights into the much-debated humanitarian access challenge. The
article concludes that in a digital age, access is no longer only about gaining
access to vulnerable populations, but also about preventing access to
vulnerable digital bodies. Read the article in full here.
her article Control or Rescue at Sea? Aims and Limits of Border Surveillance
Technologies in the Mediterranean Sea, Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert
seeks to understand what surveillance technologies can and cannot do vis-à-vis
the roles they were assigned. The article argues that surveillance of migration
in the Mediterranean Sea does not equal actual control as it is limited in its
ability to stop, sort or reduce migration flows. Rather, the type of information
collected by such technology is best adapted to support search and rescue
operations. Read the article in full here.
Audio from the final roundtable debate is now available, listen here. In the roundtable were NUPI Research Professor Morten Bøås, Independent Expert and former MFA Director of Department for Migration Tove Skarstein, and Professor at the University of Warwick School of Law Dallal Stevens. The session was chaired by NCHS Director and PRIO Research Director Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert.
The Norwegian-registered vessel Ocean Viking, operated by Médecins Sans Frontières, has recently been at the centre of a debate that has become dominated by one assumption: that search-and-rescue (SAR) operations are encouraging people to attempt to cross the Mediterranean.
The logic is problematic for
several reasons, and I will try to address some of them: 1) the statistics
suggest otherwise; 2) it ignores the wider picture – that a range of complex
factors drive people to flee their homes, with some heading towards the
Mediterranean; and 3) the theory is being used to legitimize non-rescue of
boats in distress.
A temptingly simple explanation
The logic has a name, the pull
factor – in other words, that SAR operations contribute to “pull” more people
to attempt the crossing. The power of this idea lies partly in how it provides
a simple and apparently clear-cut explanation for a complex problem — a problem
that we otherwise have a hard time understanding, and even harder time
addressing. It is also powerful because it is difficult to refute: it is hard
to know exactly what makes people decide to embark on this dangerous sea
crossing, and there are probably as many reasons as there are refugees and
In 2004, Erna Solberg, then
Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, argued against a local initiative in Trondheim, which sought
to provide food and accommodation to asylum seekers lacking refugee status.
Solberg claimed that the initiative would “in practice mean unfettered
immigration by people from the Horn of Africa”. Today the idea that any measure
intended to ensure a minimum level of subsistence for refugees or other
migrants will help “pull” more people in the same direction pervades European
policy on migration, from Greece and France to Norway.
The pull factor and SAR operations
particular, the legacy of Italy’s Operation Mare Nostrum has served to boost
the pull-factor theory about SAR missions in the Mediterranean. Mare Nostrum
was established in response to a major shipwreck off Lampedusa in October 2013,
which was described by high-ranking EU politicians and the Italian president as
a “shame” for Europe. Mare Nostrum was run by the Italian navy as a
“military-humanitarian” operation. The number of refugees and other migrants
who attempted to make the crossing had already begun to rise before the
operation started, and even while Mare Nostrum was saving tens of thousands of
lives at sea, the numbers continued to rise.
quickly concluded that the increase was linked to the presence of the SAR
operation, and that Mare Nostrum was directly and indirectly encouraging more
people to make the crossing. This allegation, which was seen at the time as
controversial, has nonetheless become almost conventional wisdom in today’s
What do the numbers tell us?
researchers have examined the statistical relationship between the numbers of
migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean and SAR capacity. One study, conducted by Elias Steinhilper and Rob Gruitjers,
looks at the period between late 2013 and 2017. They divide this period into
three periods: an initial period with high SAR capacity (October 2013 – October
2014); a subsequent period with low SAR capacity following the launch of the
Frontex-led Operation Triton (November 2014 – May 2015); and a third period
with high SAR capacity (Triton II with increased SAR capacity, plus more
vessels operated by NGOs). The numbers of people crossing the Mediterranean
began to increase before Mare Nostrum was implemented, and continued to
increase after it was shut down and throughout the period of low SAR capacity.
In fact, the numbers increased most sharply during the period of low SAR
capacity, rather than during the two periods with high SAR capacity. This same
period also saw the sharpest increase in the number of drownings, compared with
the periods before and after.
still ongoing, study conducted by Matteo
Villa at ISPI in Milan, is examining the number of migrants leaving
Libya in 2019 compared with the availability of SAR vessels on the actual dates
the migrants’ boats left shore. The findings show that the likelihood of boats
leaving Libya is not affected by the availability of SAR vessels, but rather by
wind and weather conditions. Figures from the IOM and UNHCR show that so far
this year, on average, 31 migrants leave shore on days when SAR vessels are
operating, against 41 migrants on days with no SAR vessels.
A narrow perspective
while these figures sow doubt about the existence of any direct link, it is
important to point out that the theory itself, assuming that the availability
of x number of SAR vessels affects the number of people attempting the sea
crossing, is built on a problematic premise. The thinking is based on a very
narrow perspective, which views SAR vessels as a unique factor in a world where
the availability of more or fewer SAR vessels is the sole factor influencing an
apparently inexhaustible number of migrants ready to attempt the crossing. The
wider picture, with its multiple factors that either hinder migration or make
it possible or necessary for people to leave their homes, is too complex to
understand and too difficult to do anything about. This line of thinking posits
NGOs’ activities as the simple explanation for an otherwise incomprehensible
situation, and thereby also the factor that needs to be addressed in order to
resolve the situation.
Humanitarian rhetoric used to legitimize not saving
problem with this hypothesis however is not only that it appears to be
unfounded and based on a narrow perspective, but that it is being used to
legitimize both the closed ports and an active policy of not coming to the
rescue of vessels in distress. There is in fact a duty, enshrined in the
international law of the sea, to provide assistance to vessels in distress and
take the rescued to a safe harbour.
of one’s political standing, it is no easy matter to argue against saving lives
at sea. That is also why many of those advancing this argument. are trying to
prove that SAR operations will “entice” more people to attempt the crossing,
and thereby putting more migrants at greater risk. As such, the policy of
non-rescue is presented as a policy that protects more people from drowning.
hindering the operations of SAR vessels will not save the lives of more
migrants, and it will also not address the complex causes of displacement and
Written by Sean Martin McDonald (Digital Public, FrontlineSMS, Duke Center on Law & Technology, Stanford Digital Civil Society Lab)
Sean McDonald argues that the humanitarian sector has much to offer the technology industry, and explores the relationship between the two. This article first appeared on Centre for International Governance Innovation, and is reposted here.
About the author: Sean Martin McDonald is the co-founder of Digital Public, which builds legal trusts to protect and govern digital assets. Sean’s research focuses on civic data trusts as vehicles that embed public interest governance into digital relationships and markets.
summer, the World Food Programme (WFP) — the world’s largest humanitarian
organization — got into a pitched standoff with Yemen’s Houthi government over,
on the surface, data governance. That standoff stopped food aid to 850,000
people for more than two months during the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Essentially, the WFP accused the Houthi government of redirecting aid to fund
the war and insisted that aid recipients participate in a biometric
identity-tracking system. The government responded by accusing the WFP of being
a front for intelligence operations; this was opportune, given the recent controversy over their relationship with Palantir. In the end, the parties agreed to use
the WFP’s fingerprint-based biometric identity system, despite reported flaws. The dispute, of course, wasn’t just
about data — it was about power, trust and the licence to operate.
While they may
seem worlds apart, the humanitarian sector has much to offer to the technology
industry. One of the things humanitarians and technologists have in common is
an extraordinary power to operate. For humanitarians, power takes the form of
an internationally agreed-upon right to intervene in conflicts – for some, with
legal immunity. And technology companies have the ability to project themselves
into global markets without the need for traditional government approval.
In one sense,
they’re opposites. Humanitarians have had to meticulously negotiate the
conditions of their access to conflict zones, based on non-intervention
principles, the terms of host country agreements with governments and,
increasingly, data-sharing agreements. In contrast, technology companies have
mostly enjoyed the freedom to operate globally without much negotiation,
taxation or regulation of any type. But, in recent years (as illustrated by the
WFP example) humanitarian organizations are starting to face the political and
regulatory implications of collecting, using, storing, sharing and deleting
data. Technology companies, it seems, are following the same path; they face
significant public pushback from nearly every corner of the world, from
international standards bodies and antitrust investigations to privacy fines
and class action lawsuits.
organizations have considerable history and experience negotiating for the
licence to operate in political and unstable contexts – which should inform the
people and companies designing data governance systems. Here are five places to
Licence to Operate
and technology companies can, and sometimes do, operate in places where the
government is actively resistant to their presence. While the stakes are often
lower for technology companies, the costs involved in negotiating licence to
operate country-by-country, and the technical complexity of maintaining product
offerings compatible with divergent political contexts, are high. As a result,
most technology companies launch offerings, and then react to, or defend
against governmental and public concerns. That approach is decidedly
opportunist, sacrificing long-term goodwill for short-term gains. Humanitarian
organizations have extensive debates around their right to access affected
populations, and under what conditions they earn that mandate. One thing
humanitarians can teach technology companies is the importance of contextual
negotiations and compromise to improve medium-term sustainability and long-term
The Political Complexity of Neutrality
The technology industry has become a popular political
scapegoat, often coming under fire for all kinds of bias. Technology companies
arbitrate complex social, commercial and political processes, some without any
dedicated operational infrastructure. The larger companies have built trust and
safety teams, content moderation units of varying types, and online dispute
resolution systems — all of which are designed to help users solve problems
related to platforms’ core functions. Each of these approaches has grown
significantly in recent years, but largely to mitigate damage created by the
technology sector itself – and often without transparency or the ability to
organizations, in contrast, are defined by their commitment to several core,
apolitical principles: humanity, neutrality, impartiality, independence and to
do no harm. The major humanitarian organizations have built organizations and
reputations for upholding those values, often amid violent conflict, that scale
globally. The technology industry, and in particular those seeking the licence
to provide public digital services or to govern public data — has a significant
amount to learn from the organizational structure of complex humanitarian
an organizational structure that manages common infrastructure and operational
hierarchies. Federation is second nature to technology companies when it comes
to code, but they are just learning how to federate and devolve their
organizational structures. Humanitarian organizations have been working through
devolved, federated organizational structures for decades — the International
Federation of the Red Cross, for example. There is a natural, and well-documented tension between independence and upholding
common standards across networks – especially in technology systems. Yet,
humanitarian organizations have built federated organizations that enable them
to operate globally, while availing themselves of the two most important
aspects of building trust: investment in local capacity and accountability.
In addition to
negotiating a licence to operate with governments, humanitarian organizations
often invest in domestic response capacity, and in recent years, localization
has become a driving strategic imperative. Humanitarians increasingly realize
they need to offer value beyond direct emergency aid, in order to foster more
durable solutions and earn the trust of communities. Technology companies often
make their products available internationally — and they often invest in
countries where they maintain a physical presence, but they rarely set up a
presence for the purposes of investing in local communities or in ways that
extend beyond their business interests. Technology organizations looking to
build trust and public approval in the ways they govern data could learn from
the humanitarian sector’s investments in local capacity, resilience and
humanitarian sector faces a lot of controversy over accountability, their
typical operating practice is to engage in direct negotiations with local
parties, which is different than technology companies, who generally start with
one set of terms they apply globally. The default terms of the technology
industry’s cardinal data governance contracts — terms of service agreements and
privacy policies — enable them to unilaterally change the terms of the
agreement. It’s impossible to rely on the terms of a contract that can change
at the whim of one party – or when the underlying goes bankrupt or gets
acquired. The actors within the technology industry seeking public trust in the
way they manage data can learn from the humanitarian sector about the need for
credible parity between negotiating parties and distributed accountability.
The good news
is that the humanitarian sector and the technology industry are well on their
way to forming deep alliances; the heads of several major humanitarian organizations have placed private sector coordination and co-creation at the centre of their
strategies. The World Economic Forum is laying the foundation for private companies to participate
in international governance bodies. And, private foundations and investors
increasingly play a role in shaping response efforts.
Unfortunately, these relationships may be a double-edged
sword. Technology companies can take advantage of humanitarian organizations’
unique licence to operate to work in regulated spaces, test new products
without repercussions and even justify the creation of invasive surveillance.
This new generation of relationships between the humanitarian organizations and
technology companies offer opportunities for each group to learn from the
other’s structural solutions on problems relating to shared issues of trust,
neutrality and global scale. Let’s hope that the technology industry chooses to
learn from the organizations that have spent the last century building, testing
and scaling organizational structures to deliver the best of humanity.
In his newly published article, From Space to Supply Chains: A Plan for Humanitarian Data Governance, in the SSRN, Sean Martin McDonald highlights the relationship between digitization and humanitarian supply chains, with a focus on data protection and governance.
Against the backdrop of the June 2019 ultimatum issued by the World Food Programme (WFP) to the Houthi Government in Yemen – participate in a biometric identification system or receive less aid – McDonald explores the evolving role of humanitarian organizations in a digitalized world. The paper revisits the humanitarian space and access debates, and how current trends in humanitarian response extend operating license granted to humanitarian organization to a much larger group of actors. McDonald examines the operational implications of extending humanitarian license to a larger network of partners, and concludes with five actionable opportunities for humanitarian organizations to begin building supply chain approaches to data governance, toward securing humanitarian space.
The paper was written with funding from the Research Council of Norway, under its “‘Aid in Crisis? Rights-Based Approaches to Humanitarian Outcomes” grant, led by Kristin Bergtora Sandvik. Read the article in full here.
The University of Tromsø Centre for Peace Studies invite you to the Critical Interdisciplinary Conference on Studying Peace from Below. The conference will take place in Tromsø, Norway, from 5-6 September 2019. For further details, see the conference site and detailed program.
The discourse and practices of peace building processes in post-conflict and volatile environments that aim to achieve or sustain peace often tend to exclude local communities and treat them as beneficiaries instead of active participants, creators, and agents. This has led to failures, which have prompted questions about the legitimacy of external and top-down peace building approaches and calls for local ownership and participation.
The ‘view from below’ came as a response to this criticism. In such a context, this Critical Interdisciplinary Conference on Studying Peace from Below aims to interrogate and problematize how the ‘from below’ perspective has been used in teaching, research, and policy (in education and research institutions, as well as state, regional, and supranational organizations, e.g. the EU, the AU, the ASEAN, the UN etc.).
Recently, the UN identified peace, justice, and gender equality as some of the important themes to be addressed in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In view of this, we want to explore and better understand the relevance and significance of studying peace from below vis-à-vis the SDGs, with a particular focus on the issues of achieving peace, justice, and gender equality. The core objective is to examine the possibilities, tensions, and even contradictions that are inherent in ‘the view from below’ as it has been conceptualized and applied so far.
To register for the conference (in full or in part), send an email with your name, e-mail address, and institutional affiliation to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line #peacefrombelow2019.
Thusday, 5 September
08:30 – 09:00 – Registration and Refreshment
09:00 – 09:30 – Welcome note. Conference Team: Marcela Douglas (Director of the Centre for Peace Studies); Kenneth Ruud (Vice Rector for Research & Development, UiT)
09:35 – 11:05 – Session A. Identity, Conflict & Peace
A brief review of this edited collection by Garnier, Jubilut & Sandvik is now available in the Book Notes section of Journal of Peace Research. The review highlights the importance of the book for scholars and practitioners exploring the linkages of refugee protection with humanitarian practice, and the power asymmetries this implies. Click here to read the review, and read more about the book here.
Gunnar M. Sørbø is a social anthropologist, former director of the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), and former Chair of the Board of the NCHS.
This text is based on an op-ed which was first published in Norwegian in Bergens Tidende, 5 May 2019: Europas nye grensevakter.
Are we supporting a development which ultimately sends even more refugees towards Europe?
More than a million migrants crossed the Mediterranean in an attempt to reach Europe during the 2015 refugee crisis, the vast majority arriving either in Greece or Italy. The following year the European Union entered the so-called “EU-Turkey Deal”, a statement of cooperation between European states and the Turkish government. The agreement was meant to ensure that migrants and refugees arriving in Turkey, most of whom were fleeing Syria, would remain there, and that migrants making it to Greece would be returned to Turkey.
From a European
perspective, the agreement with Turkey has been successful. Only about 360.000
migrants and refugees arrived by sea in 2016. The arrivals were distributed
quite evenly between Greece and Italy, the two European countries that received
most of the migrants leaving Northern Africa. To ensure that the flow of people
would be further reduced, the EU as well as several singular European countries
made similar bilateral agreements with Libya, and later with countries in the
Sahel region south of Libya: Sudan, Niger and Chad.
Norway is among the
European countries which has intensified its focus on the region over the past
few years. As with other countries, the motivation behind the increased support
has not been limited to stopping large-scale migration, but also to stop the
spread of Islamic terrorism. This type of terrorism affected Norwegians
directly in 2013 when an attack on the Norwegian energy company Statoil’s gas
facility in Algeria resulted in the loss of Norwegian lives.
In Libya, the EU made an agreement with the government in Tripoli. At the time, the
Libyan authorities had limited territorial control and depended on various
militias for survival. Presently, they are fighting the forces of General
Khalifa Haftar, who is based in the eastern part of Libya and is supported by
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Libya has faced political destabilization
since the former head of state Gaddafi lost power and was killed in 2011.
Thus, Italy suggested
to create checkpoints along the border in southern Libya, an area controlled by
militias often in conflict with each other. The countries south of Libya also
tend to have problems controlling their border regions, yet authoritarian heads
of state have promised to exercise migration control in exchange for much
needed financial support from Europe.
This type of “outsourcing”
means that Europe has become entangled with some unusual border guards that are
difficult to control.
In Sudan, the task of controlling migration has to a large extent been
handed to militias allied with the regime in Khartoum. These are the same armed
groups that were responsible for excessive use of force displacing large groups
of people from their homes during the Darfur crisis of 2003-2004. They patrol
the border to Libya claiming to stop migrants from travelling north, while
simultaneously smuggling people into Libya in cooperation with actors on the
other side of the border.
The same armed forces (Rapid Support Forces – RSF) have also been active at the border between Sudan and Eritrea. Studies conducted through a joint effort by universities in Sudan and the Chr. Michelsen’s Institute/The University of Bergen show that migrants from Eritrea, Syria and other countries continue to journey through Sudan. However, the migrants are paying a higher price than before, taking new routes, and doing so at a greater risk.
While Sudan has
received support from the EU for “managing” migration, the regime’s brutal
policies and the country’s wrecked economy are contributing to a steady flow of
Sudanese people wanting to leave their own country. In 2014-2016, 9,300
Sudanese arrived in Italy, and in 2017, twenty per cent of those granted political
asylum in France came from Sudan.
A report from the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands (“Multilateral Damage”, 2018) confirms some of the
tendencies we have observed in Sudan. Firstly, new migration routes have
emerged, more dangerous and secretive than before, and therefore also more
expensive and criminalized. The total number of migrants making the journey has
decreased, but evidence suggests that the number of migrant deaths has
Secondly, the overall stability in these countries is threatened as the
number of ungovernable militia groups grow. Some of these armed groups profit
from stopping migrants, others from smuggling migrants northwards, and a
considerable number practice both. In Niger, the ban on migration has disturbed
the fragile balance that was established when the Tuareg and Tubu rebels in the
northern part of the country entered a peace accord with the government.
The local economy has deteriorated,
and new militias have emerged in the border regions. A common denominator for
all these countries is that armed groups outside of the state’s control are
becoming more powerful and constituting a security threat.
Political developments in Sudan during April and May 2019 have led the RSFleader Hemetti to power as second-in-command in the Transitional Military Council (TMC), now participating in talks with the protesters about a new government. In Libya, both parties in the war for the capital Tripoli are depending on alliances with militias. Many of them are keeping migrants and refugees in custody and subjecting them to torture and extortion, before a small number – barely 500 in the first three months of this year – gets transported en route to Europe.
In a desperate plea
for help from the EU, the Libyan Prime Minister is threatening that up to 800,000
people will cross the Mediterranean if Libya were to face political collapse.
This is most likely an overstatement, as there are probably not that many
refugees and migrants wishing to reach Europe from Libya right now, and because
transportation by sea is arranged by mafia-like organizations that may be
dissolved if the political chaos in the country is amplified. Nevertheless, the
prime minister’s statement speaks volumes about the vulnerability of the
agreements that have been made.
Most European countries are aware of the risks associated with
“externalizing” border control, but across Europe the field of migration is
characterized by realpolitik. Lowering the number of migrants and asylum
seekers reaching Europe has become the overarching objective.
We are seemingly becoming
less concerned with the policies’ unintended consequences. This is probably
caused by European migration policies claiming to answer all our concerns: not
just migration, but also security, political stability and terrorism – based on
the assumption that human trafficking, drug trafficking, arms dealings and
terrorism are driven by a conglomerate of mafia-like organizations and that
these are hurting local communities in the affected regions.
However, most people
involved in migrant smuggling do not view themselves as criminals, and their
activities may also create positive ripple effects in many local communities across
Before the overthrow of Gaddafi, when many migrants from other African countries went to work in Libya, assisting migrants was part of the formal economy. Now, the practice is considered criminal. This may result in participants formerly engaged with assisting migrants moving their affairs elsewhere, for instance into activities eroding the state’s control such as revolt and terrorism.
Many European politicians probably recognize that the agreements
that are being made strengthen forces we would rather not be associated with,
whether this is an increasingly authoritarian president in Turkey or militia
groups in the Sahel region.
Yet, the question we must ask ourselves is whether this policy is
sustainable in the long run. I am here thinking not only of the immense human
suffering caused by such policies, but also whether we are supporting a
development which will ultimately push even more people in the direction of