BORDER CONTROL: NOW A GLOBAL GAME

by Ruben Andersson, IRIN

The warning was restrained, as was to be expected from a European border police chief, yet it was a warning nonetheless. Amid European leaders' scramble to launch a military operation targeting migrant smugglers' boats in the Mediterranean, the director of EU border agency, Frontex, voiced some caution: "If there is a military operation in the vicinity of Libya," he said in early June, "this may change the migration routes and make them move to the eastern route." One route closes; another opens up. Simple, really—yet rarely are any migration control lessons drawn from this elemental fact.

In the "war on drugs," it is often called the "balloon effect": squeeze the balloon in one place, and it expands somewhere else. Something similar is happening with efforts to crack down on irregular migration, with an important difference: when the balloon consists of people, they get more desperate the harder you squeeze. So too do border officials and politicians, as demonstrated by Italy's growing frustration with other EU leaders reluctant to help the country deal with the influx at its southern shores.

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