Richard North, 02/01/2015  

000a Italy-002 ship.jpg

Still working on Flexcit, the latest (as yet unpublished) version is running to 370 pages, as I plough through a major restructuring and add a separate, new chapter on asylum seekers.

Writing a coherent chapter on what are called "irregular migrants" tends to focus the mind in a way that no casual writing or discussion can do, as one attempts to produce a rounded work that explains the issue in its entirety and attempts to identify practical solutions and recommendations.

This comes at a time when we have seen in short order not one but two "rogue" cargo ships directed at Italy, stuffed with asylum seekers in what amounts to a brazen escalation by criminal human traffickers, who are making millions out of human misery.

The latest ship, MV Ezadeen (pictured under tow), is said to be packed with around 400 migrants, and is currently under tow, headed for Italy, after lying overnight 58 miles off the coast of the city of Crotone in the Ionian Sea.

Commentators now are speaking openly of the broader issues, with a spokesman for Frontex, the EU's border agency, Ewa Moncure, making it clear that this is the work of human traffickers. They appear to have employed the same method of using large decommissioned cargo ships that have been "brought back from the dead".

"It's a "multimillion-dollar business" for those operating such ships, Moncure said. She estimates that each passenger paid $3,000 to travel on the Ezadeen. Earlier, there were estimates that passengers were paying up to $6,000 for a berth on the Blue Sky M, potentially grossing the traffickers over $5 million for the single voyage.

Looking at this issue in the round, though, these latest events are merely the tip of a huge iceberg, representing sequential policy failures of the EU and Member States, but rooted in international agreements stretching back to 1951, before the EEC was even born.

Addressing specifically the EU, we as "eurosceptics" have been particularly voluble about policy failures such the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but these are paragons of virtue compared with the almost total failure of the EU adequately to address the asylum seeker issue.

It is there, where we ourselves have missed a major opportunity in having failed on the one hand to identify fully the scale of EU policy disaster and, on the other, to come up with a rational (and humane) policy of our own, with pointers for where we need to see changes in the international order to make them stick.

In this context, the Ukip line that "illegal immigrants" should be returned from whence they came is neither tenable nor legal. These are sound-bite politics which bear no relation to reality.

A point that has to be made here is that the UK, a line with any other civilised, developed country, cannot walk away from international agreements. It is thus inconceivable that we as a nation should not have a policy on asylum seekers, and one which respects international law and our obligations to it.

For several weeks, now, I have been working specifically on such issues and, in the coming days, I will post a series of pieces which explore ideas of where we have gone wrong, and what we need to do to bring order to what is undoubtedly one of the most egregious EU policy failures of all time.

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The Many, Not the Few