GENEVA: The United Nations’ refugees chief on Monday denounced the politicisation of migration in European elections. He warned that demonising refugees, will only make the issue more difficult, to deal with.

Filippo Grandi told reporters that his ‘main’ concern after the weekend’s European Parliament elections, was that “the refugee-migration theme has become so politicised in these elections”. The European elections handed significant gains to ‘far-right parties’, across much of the continent. This, he said, was “partly because some politicians have manipulated it, have portrayed it as a threat, as a risk”.

Numerous European states’ have focused on tightening migration policies. A ‘heftier’ representation of the ‘far-right’ is expected to make itself felt, on the EU’s migration and asylum agenda.

Grandi acknowledged that swelling numbers of refugees and migrants could pose significant challenges, “first and foremost for the people that are on the move, but also for the people hosting and receiving them, for the countries, governments receiving them”.

“But to simply say: this is an invasion, (of) ill-intentioned people that come here to steal your jobs, threaten your values, your security, and therefore they have to go away, we have to build barriers, this does not solve the problem,” he stated.

“It’s not just wrong, because these people have rights, whoever they are, but also because these positions do not solve the problem, they make it worse,” Grandi said. “To build barriers actually increases irregularity of movements which are more difficult to manage,” he said.

‘Deep trouble’

Instead of demonising refugees and migrants, he says it would be wiser if countries ‘worked together’, on addressing the root causes which push people to leave their homes.

Such an approach would be in Europe’s “self-interest”, he said.

He pointed to the ‘largely neglected’ conflict raging in Sudan, which has in recent months, spurred a “steep rise in the arrival of Sudanese refugees into North Africa, Libya, Tunisia and then across to Italy”.

“There’s no point in screaming and anguishing about these flows when not enough is done to stop the reasons why they’re coming,” he said.

Focusing on addressing the root causes and dismal conditions along migration routes, which spur people to keep moving, may be “less sexy in terms of political attraction, but that’s the right way to go”, he said. “Unless we do that, this problem will become bigger, and then there will be no slogans to counter it, because we will all be in deep trouble.”

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2024

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