The Forgotten of the Arab Spring

Belgian media spread this week the info mentioned in a press release of SOS Jeunes – Quartier Libre that warned about the alarming situation of certain foreign unaccompanied minors, left to their fate while Belgium is going through a wave of unusual cold. While refuge measures implemented by the new Secretary of State for Immigration Maggie De Block show here more than a gap, the reason why we insist on it is rather that those young people are mostly from the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia). The fact that young people are left alone without any hosting structures, because they do not want/cannot seek asylum, leads to a necessary reflection on our migration policies in the wake of the Arab spring.

In a speech on the blog of the show Avenue de l’Europe (France 3), the Green MEP Helene Flautre is the need of some governments to emphasize the negative effects of immigration, the need to talk about migration in terms of dangers, rather than of opportunities. She says the Arab spring is an unprecedented opportunity to rethink a framework for cooperation in the Mediterranean. She challenges above all the work of Frontex. Founded in 2004, this decentralized body of the EU, despite a speech where she says she protects migrants who try to cross the Mediterranean, is more attached to secure the sealing of our borders.

When will European policy makers realize that no dam can ever stop migration? Why keep these young people who may have desires, ideas, from arriving here, while more structured channels could be far more beneficial? It is time also to stop the alarmist talk about the number of newly arrived migrants in Europe, as other simultaneously return to their country where the future offers hope again. It is on this process of democratic transition emerging in our southern neighborhood that must be based our thinking in terms of migration.

One year after the beginning of the Arab spring member states policy on migration has not changed. It is time to enter into dialogue with the countries in transition to build a real partnership on these issues and to give these young people a real opportunity to bring something to Europe, and also to their country of origin. Let’s think and set up a migration policy which will be described in positive terms!

Meanwhile, it is necessary to applaud the action of civil society organizations such as SOS Jeunes – Quartier Libre that take over duties from the state when the latter failes in its duty. But this solution is partial and can only be provisional.


Nathalie Janne d’Othée