Giampaolo Silvestri is Secretary-General of the AVSI Foundation
Fear cannot be our guide in this era of change. As novelist and poet Herta Müller wrote, fear is the “thief of freedom” – something that takes away, along with the future, our present.
One of the greatest sources of fear of current times is forced migration, combined with the threat of terrorism, sneaking into all areas of everyday life. To address the tangle of migration and terrorism, both of which have hit Europe hard over the past year, we need to start facts and new ideas.
Non-governmental organisations that work along the migration route from sub-Saharan countries, via the Middle East, up to our shores in Europe emphasise one fact we should already know: migrants are not extra-terrestrials that just materialise and enter our countries. Instead, all migrants have their own stories: ones that begin in faraway villages, from which they are forced to flee for one reason or another. Solutions here need to be matched with solutions there.
One of the greatest sources of fear of current times is forced migration
Migrants are not isolated individuals but part of communities. They are the children of countries with which Europe needs to have as good a relationship as possible. But Europe should not be naïve when it comes to the increasing demand and need for security, and should keep in a strong relationship with local institutions and representatives of civil society, a key relationship.
Côte d’Ivoire is a good example. It has an ongoing project funded by the European Union that aims to promote vocational training of artisans in various fields – an effort to shift from an ‘informal’ to a ‘formal’ economy. Many citizens work as artisans, but they can boost their businesses only if they are given help on how to act more professionally and become better equipped; to hire more staff and start long-lasting development in their community. These projects, including local authorities, governors and chambers of commerce, can help to limit migration.
Indeed, why should a young Ivorian who has the chance to work in his own country and enhance his own home and community arrive in Europe to end up in a grey zone of anonymity, sleeping on the streets and becoming a prey for terrorist recruiters?
Europe needs to think realistically how we can enhance the time spent in Europe by people who will be deported
The EU-funded project succeeds because it offers young people a cornerstone: work combined with education. Work without education often translates into forms of unstable and frustrating insecurity, which is why by counting on the cooperation of different partners – business, individuals, international and local institutions, civil society – it can properly address the complexity of the situation.
But together with these interventions and projects, we must take responsibility for the whole issue of repatriation, one of the pillars of the EU’s Migration Compact. A deportation order handed to a migrant who has spent the family savings to cross deserts and has endured violence to reach his dream of a European paradise does not automatically send him back to his home village. Shame and failure are powerful deterrents: better to stay in Europe, even as an outlaw.
Europe needs to think realistically how we can enhance the time spent in Europe by people who will be deported. Perhaps in this waiting period before they return home – a period that has a cost for Europeans – we can consider profitable and mutually-beneficial activities. A migrant who has learnt to start a business while waiting for repatriation has more chance of finding work and has a chance to set into motion a virtuous cycle with rewarding consequences.
We in Europe should at least try to exchange experiences in this area – and ensure that we do not give fertile ground to those who seek to sow terror.
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