All the time the UK remains in the EU, or remains in on current terms, our borders policy is mutually dependent on border controls elsewhere in the EU. In some senses Italy’s borders are our borders too. We need to know how to influence this policy, all the time the issue of the excessive powers the EU enjoys in the UK remains unresolved and we remain committed to Labour’s EU borders.
The recent tragic loss of life in the seas to the south of Italy have brought a response from the Italian authorities. They are now using more of their military force to patrol and to offer help to any vessel in difficulties. We should all respond to distress by wishing to help.
The question, however, remains how should the EU respond to the underlying crisis? In an ideal world people seeking entry into the EU would do so through regular legal channels. Italy would make decisions based on the facts of each case. People seeking asylum would find a home. There are restrictions on economic migrant numbers and qualifying requirements. The arrival of a large number of illegals greatly complicates the situation. If Italy grants them all admission she has overturned the rules and the legal system and has effectively moved to open borders with the rest of the world. If she tries to send them all back to where they came from there will be difficulties over asylum rights and human decency.
Somehow Italy has to assert her legal controls. She needs to reward those who apply legally and meet the requirements. She needs to set realistic rules that balance the wishes of those wanting to come with the needs and views of Italian taxpayers and voters. Whilst offering humanitarian assistance to those whose lives are threatened, she needs to avoid sending a perverse incentive for more to risk their lives by taking to the seas in overcrowded and dangerous boats. We all have an interest in Italy finding the right balance between admissions and refusals, and getting across the message that a dangerous sea voyage with unreliable organisers and boats is not a free passage to the EU but a worry for all concerned and a bad risk for those embarking on it.