Italy's Prime Minister Meloni
MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ / EPA
In view of the unchanged high level of migration across the Mediterranean, right-wing parties in Europe are insisting on isolation and toughness. AfD leader Alice Weidel is now calling for a "Mediterranean blockade" to prevent smuggling boats from crossing to Europe. Without exception, they would have to be forced into the respective port of departure "with the help of fleet operations".
Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni made a similar statement last week. In a video message, she pleaded for a European mission to stop boats on their way to Europe. If necessary, the navy must be deployed, said the right-wing politician.
At the general debate of the United Nations in New York, Meloni followed up and urged a "global war" against human traffickers. It is the task of the UN to "declare global war on human traffickers without hypocrisy and without compromise." Italy is ready to be at the "forefront" of this.
Hundreds of new arrivals on Lampedusa every day
In particular, the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is currently reached by hundreds of people every day after crossing from North Africa. Italian authorities reported more than 700 new arrivals on Thursday, Ansa news agency reported. The island's reception centre continued to be completely overcrowded with more than 1100 people.
Neither the calls for isolation nor for tougher action against smugglers are new. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is also in favour of greater surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea at sea and from the air. "We can do this through Frontex," von der Leyen said, referring to the EU border agency. However, whether this will actually reduce migration to Europe is questionable.
In many cases, the organizers of the crossings are not likely to be "human traffickers," as Meloni claims. In human trafficking, those affected are exploited through forced labour, slavery or prostitution, for example. Rather, migrants on their way to Europe often pay money to a large number of smugglers or middlemen to cover parts of the route. These smuggling networks are complex and difficult to combat without the cooperation of the security authorities in the countries of origin or departure.
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Victoria Rietig, head of the migration program at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), recently referred to possible negative side effects of the fight against smugglers: A stricter approach could therefore "lead to people taking more dangerous routes. Then irregular migration will not be limited, but only more expensive and deadly, and in the end an economic stimulus package for the smugglers."
The increasing surveillance and closure of borders has had a similar impact: the number of refugees coming to Europe from Turkey and Greece on the Eastern Mediterranean route has declined in recent years. Migrants are now accepting longer and dangerous journeys, for example from Libya to Italy, in order to bypass Greece.