The flow of illegal immigrants across the Mediterranean to seek a better life in Europe's welfare environment, many drowning in unseaworthy boats on the way, are a huge concern, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
Now they have become an election issue in the UK although Britain receives far fewer refugees than continental countries.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron is criticised by his Labour Party opposition for showing insufficient foresight concerning air raids on former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The Tories and Labour are being challenged in the May 7 election by UKIP (the UK Independence Party) - the eurosceptics, about receiving an overflow of refugees from the Schengen area.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stipulated a three point plan after the latest refugee drowning tragedies in the Mediterranean - save refugees, fight the illegal human traffickers and eliminate the cause of migration.
Saving refugees is obvious. It is a humanitarian duty but unfortunately exactly what the illegal immigrants and traffickers want because they get into Europe. The human traffickers - the boat providers do not even provide enough fuel for the whole trip. Getting the boat into difficulties is sufficient to have the ‘immigrants’ saved and taken to Europe. The disasters are considered quite cynically by the criminal operators as collateral damage.
The challenge will be to save boat people’s lives without facilitating the criminal model of the ‘passage providers’.
Fighting human traffickers is difficult. This is not one criminal organisation. Individuals are providing, in many instances, unseaworthy boats and launching them from the beaches. Operating the boat is left to the passengers. The operators’ only interest is to be paid in advance and ensure the boat leaves Libyan territorial waters. They do not care about the outcome.
This is a very simple ‘business model’ and one which can be copied by Libya’s neighbours. It is naive to believe, that fighting this practice will be successful because the traffickers are decentralised, not organised, and need no infrastructure.
Eliminate the causes: People are either genuine refugees or believe in a European paradise.
We have talked about the economic, social and governance problems south of the Mediterranean. These will not be solved soon and more and more immigrants will try to escape to Europe.
Europe with its declining population, compared with the big demographic surplus in Africa and the Middle East, stands no chance of halting this human pressure. The flow will continue and increase.
Election talk in the UK and Chancellor Merkel's statement show the helplessness in Europe. Southern Europe cannot master the problem alone and soon it will be a problem for the whole of Europe anyway.
Genuine refugees have to be considered. People seeking a European paradise should be disillusioned.
The only way is to adapt Europe’s laws and regulations. Immigrants will have to work for their living but - even more so - will have to adapt to the culture, habits and governance of their host country. This is the only way Europe can handle this problem.