Giorgio Spagnol
Date de publication: 


Currently, there are about 281 million migrants living in a country other than their countries of birth, or 3.6 percent of the global population: that is, 1 in 30 people. More than 100 million of those were forcibly displaced by conflict, persecution, poverty, climate disaster.

Most frequently, reasons underpinning migration are a complex combination of altered rainfall, armed conflict and a failure of government institutions and support. Out of the 15 most vulnerable countries to climate change, 13 are witnessing an armed conflict.

Southern Europe is concerned with migration coming from the Mediterranean Southern flank where the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a source of deep apprehension.

Never in modern history MENA experienced such conditions of warfare, mass human displacement, and broken states. The complexity of the region means that political solutions based on justice, dignity and social cohesion are badly required to achieve and sustain peace. 

The migration phenomenon

MENA were divided by Europeans without considering history, tradition, culture and right to self-determination. Paternalism, humiliation and exploitation followed provoking conflicts and wars up to now. In many MENA countries, corrupt elites still have too much influence, sending their money abroad instead of investing it locally, while letting multinationals exploit the natural resources without creating domestic value chains.

The African population will double in size by 2050 when one in four citizens on earth will be African: a good reason for African and European leaders to be worried, and to make commitments to cope with migration. Migration has long shaped the Middle East and North Africa, with countries in the region often simultaneously representing points of origin, transit and destination. Demographic and socio-economic trends, conflicts and climate change are among the multitude of factors that influence migration dynamics in the region.

Current situation

Europe is experiencing a significant migration and refugee crisis as people flee conflict and poverty in Africa, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Asia, and elsewhere. Greece and Italy have been major arrival and transit points for refugees and migrants: that is causing a heavy burden for both countries, which Europe needs to relieve. Anyway, the EU should be mindful of an excessive securitization of its migration policy and instead complement such measures with a wider reform of the EU’s asylum and immigration systems, to allow for regular and legal migration channels into Europe.

Migration is as old as humanity itself. Like birds, human beings are said to be a migratory species. Across all eras of human history, they have been inclined to wander away from home, driven by various motives, but always with some idea of a better life.

While migration has emerged as a prominent international and national policy issue, the public discourse on migrants has increasingly become polarized. The toxicity of the migration debate has intensified over the past few years, with the politics of fear and division setting the tone for discussions.

Extremist politicians around the world deploy disruption and disinformation as tools to retain power, exploiting migrants for xenophobic agendas.

Amid often negatively skewed discussions on migration and migrants, the many ways in which migrants contribute to societies is often overlooked. One can lose sight of the dynamism of migrants globally. They are overrepresented in innovation and patents, arts and sciences awards, start-ups and successful companies.

Positive side of migration

Migrants have a key role to play as entrepreneurs. When someone migrates, there is a strong will for winning, for confronting the new environment, and for making the best for the migrant and their family but also for the society in which they are working.

They are workers. They are consumers. They pay taxes. And this positive side of migration is not very often highlighted. Money sent home by migrants is a significant part of international capital flows. Remittances compete with international aid as one of the largest financial inflows to developing countries.

According to the World Bank, they are playing a large role in contributing to economic growth and to the livelihoods of many countries. About $800 billion are transferred by migrants each year directly to families or communities in their countries of origin. This number does not capture unrecorded flows, so the magnitude of global remittances is likely to be much larger.

They are often a lifeline for the poorest households, allowing them to meet their basic needs.    They provide for the charity within their countries families and friends that are hit by a crisis so they know what kind of responses are needed in the countries of origin.                            

Migrants' contribution to host countries

Migrants can be looked at as beneficiaries but also as assets because they provide themselves the answers to many of the issues. Diaspora groups are powerhouses of innovation.

They give the economic contribution to the countries they live in and the countries they come from. They have good connections and they are able to transmit capacities skills to the countries of origin but also to acquire and provide a diversified response in the countries of destination. Migrants that come back to the country of origin, even for a limited period of a few months, transfer knowledge to their countries, expertise, and sometimes even technology. And that two-way flow is very positive also for the development of the countries of origin.

They bring with them their cultural heritage and diversity which can be seen as a value while the private sector is increasingly looking for being multicultural because this enhances the possibilities to open up in new markets.

Economic impacts vary across countries. And while migration brings challenges, there is broad consensus among economists that immigration is also a catalyst for economic growth and confers net benefits on destination countries as well.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The potential role of migrants in achieving the 17 UN SDGs cannot be underestimated. Leaving no one behind being key to it, the 2030 SDGs agenda represented a major leap forward for migration where the latter figured not merely as a core development issue on its own, but also as a cross-cutting one that is intricately related to all other goals.

The pandemic, for instance, demonstrated that excluding migrants from health coverage - SDG 3 being ensuring health and well-being for all - created a problem for the entire community because the virus proliferated in those marginalized migrant communities.

SDGs are a key guideline for all the world. On the question of health coverage, it is very important to guarantee that wherever they are, in countries of origin or countries of destination, migrants have access to health care. This is a fundamental right. It is inherent to the dignity of human beings irrespective of their legal status.

Europe and migration

In all these years, European states have not been able to find an agreement to tackle together with a true European plan one of the most complex and dramatic problems of our time. Those who accuse the European institutions should know that common solutions do not advance through the fault of the governments of the member states; they are the ones who maintain the management of the problem at a national level and on the basis of an emergency-type policy.

For this reason, it is not only necessary, but also absolutely urgent, to create a new overall political approach, directly attributing to the European institutions the definition of the rules and strategic political choices in this field, in the framework of a profound reform of the Treaties which leads to the birth of a true federal political union.

Tragedies such as those that have  happened in the Mediterranean, where massacres of abnormal dimensions took place, then dramatically become an opportunity to reflect on the limits - and the costs, not only material, but also political and moral - of the current structure of the European institutional system, which leaves the government of the politically most sensitive problems to the States, and does not foresee, even in the face of the need to find common solutions, adequate instruments in the hands of the institutions of the European Union.

How about EU Commission and Parliament?

Above all, the fact of not having a real European foreign policy, but only a weak coordination between national governments (which the European Commission tries to promote and support, but over which it has no effective power) makes Europeans so weak on an international level, to make them victims of blackmail by the unscrupulous regimes that surround it.

Thus, powerless and guilty of this impotence, European states suffer a real instrumental use by these governments of the lives of desperate people in search of refuge or prospects for a dignified future. Every now and then, in the most striking moments, the information brings to the fore the agony of families trapped along the Balkan route, or in no man's land between Belarus and Poland, or reminds us of the dead in an attempt to cross land borders or the Mediterranean; but the reality is that it is a perennial situation, in which desperation is used to enrich criminality, and even worse to blackmail or destabilize Europe: whether wanting financing or advantageous agreements, or trying to create tensions and to destabilize, the logic is always to impose the dehumanization of people.

Grieving the tragedy of the dead is no longer enough, nor is it enough to point to "ugly Europe" and limit oneself to invoking different choices by national governments. The real battle is to support the European Parliament's attempt to change the Treaties to create the European tools to act.


Europe policy response on migration is moving slowly with the usual debate between countries of first arrival including Italy asking for more solidarity, main countries of destination in Europe such as Germany asking for more responsibility and Eastern European countries skeptical on any new way forward.

Experts should look at the future and tell how they think Europe will look like tomorrow and over the next 30 years. They should move the debate beyond crisis management and hopefully encourage European government to prepare for a future where Europeans will be older and external migration pressure might be stronger.

Third Countries should be looked at not only in terms of migration but to support them in their development through a partnership combining their and our needs through a fair balance and a fair cooperation while providing support for building up their own migration and asylum system.

These are key elements that need to be factored. If we look at numbers there were in Italy 100,000 arrivals in 2022 and it was called emergency but when approximately 300,000 people arrived from Ukraine that was non considered an emergency. So there is a disconnect in that narrative and, furthermore, the European Union is not looking at what the situation at large is just in the Mediterranean.

If we look at the countries starting from Turkey going down to Israel, to Syria, to Egypt , to Libya, to Tunisia, to Algeria, and lastly, to Sudan and Niger we see that these are realities either under a situation of conflict or a situation of economic crunch so these elements need to be addressed in order to reduce the flows  and to tackle the issue of migration in a more comprehensive manner. 


Never in modern history MENA experienced such conditions of warfare, mass human displacement, and broken states. In recent decades too many early warning signs, signalling structural problems and deep injustices in the MENA world were never recognized by their ruling elites, or by the external and regional powers. And those who saw the early warning signs (political parties, social movements, activists, civil society groups) lacked the ability to do anything about them, because of the total control of power in their societies by the ruling elites.

Nowadays, coping with such an explosive situation requires a joint vision and common response. There is the need to rethink the role of multilateral, regional and sub-regional organizations by making them better equipped to respond properly while addressing the pressing demands of Mediterranean societies all around the basin.

A priority is to promote a non-Eurocentric vision of the region, taking mainly into account views from the countries affected by the migration crisis, suffering further strain on their fragile economies and political systems, and intense frustration of young people who are increasingly educated but at the same time denied an acceptable future.

Only establishment of regimes that are responsive to people demands and instil trust could push migration to gradually decline. Migrants and natives are not always competing for the same job and surely when the crisis is over, migrants will still be needed to fill segments of the economy in rapidly ageing Europe.

European public opinion and political leaders are tempted to put all eggs in one basket without distinction among them. Yet the threat takes on different forms: a cultural invasion from within and a geopolitical invasion from outside. Security challenges should remain within the realm of international affairs and several stakeholders can play a positive role in disentangling security issues from socio-economic and cultural challenges. The media have an important role to play by giving voice to all parties involved. It is important to support the MENA youths pushing for a renegotiation of the social contract based on a new vision of power relationships, more inclusive citizenship and equity before the law. There is an urgent need for an intellectual sea change in the approach to the problems of the region.

Both European and MENA governments can no longer ignore or repress these problems, but rather need to commit real resources to try to overcome them. The primary challenge for the international community is to bring legitimacy to the governing process: a stable country can only be built on strong national institutions and the EU can play a pivotal role by helping in nation rebuilding and in the economic issues it knows best, such as youth unemployment.

The EU is currently perceived both as the home of former colonial masters and as the greatest supporter of free trade and liberal democracy. It is now high time for Europe to definitely drop the colonial legacy and appear and act as a reliable promoter of freedom and civilization.

Bottom line is: the complexity of the region means that political solutions based on justice, dignity and social cohesion are badly required to achieve and sustain peace.