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The 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam states that the European Union is to be an area of freedom, security, and justice. Establishing this freedom within the European Union confronts the EU with the problem of its external borders and the need to safeguard them. Indeed, Europe’s emergent border regime with ever stricter visa policies, tighter border controls, the border agency Frontex and the (partial) externalization of responsibilities to Morocco or Libya have earned the EU the ungainly title “Fortress Europe”.
Yet even though the harmonization of immigration, asylum and refugee policies was an explicit aim of the Amsterdam Treaty already ten years ago, a coherent and legitimate European approach to migration is still wanting, not to speak of the appalling state of the protection of the migrants’ human rights. On the contrary, fragmentation and bilateral agreements are proliferating, the recent agreement between Italy and Libya being a prominent case in point.
The majority of migrants heading towards Europe use regular routes. But with ever increasing legal restrictions also more and more people try to get into Europe irregularly. Especially in the Mediterranean, this has created the phenomenon of the boat people, who try to reach Malta, Lampedusa, and other shores. In the past few years thousands have died trying to reach Europe in their makeshift boats. Others find themselves in desolate camps in Italy or in the Libyan desert. Countless are the cases in which the basic human rights of migrants and refugees are systematically ignored, be it by prohibiting them to apply for asylum, by keeping them in camps indefinitely or by lack of access to health care.
The issues related to migration pose manifold challenges to all affected countries, sending, transit, and regions of destination alike. With the “Global Approach to Migration” (GAM), adopted by the EU in December 2005 at least rhetorically steps have been made towards linking migration and development, as for example in the case of mobility partnerships. This also shows the stronger bargaining position of a number of African states. Structural imbalances –especially Europe’s agricultural policy- persist, though, and it remains to be seen if diplomatic progress will also translate in a deeper respect for the rights of migrants.
The articles in this dossier shed critical light on several related sites of Euro-Mediterranean border management. They look at the “border within” as well as the effects of the exterritorialisation strategy in the Libyan example. They show both the deadly and the “productive” aspects of the border regime. And they analyse the rationale and impacts of such measures as the mobility partnerships between EU and African states or new attempts of cooperation in the Central Mediterranean.
This dossier takes up and pursues central questions discussed at the international conference “Fortress or Area of Freedom? Euro-Mediterranean Border Management” which took place in May 2009 in Berlin.