Vienna – ESI breakfast briefing on migration with ERSTE Stiftung

23 November 2023
Gerald at a discussion in Vienna
Photo: ESI

ESI’s Gerald Knaus was invited to give a presentation on “Migrations paradigm shift 2024: Fear, refugees, and the future of their democracies”, organised by ERSTE Stiftung and ESI.

In his presentation, Gerald spoke about the dangerous rhetoric and policies currently shaping the migration debate, such as in Hungary under Viktor Orban, who has framed the challenge of migration in the language of war. He also warned of the potential consequences, including the risk of massive deportations, if Donald Trump’s immigration policies were reinstated upon his potential return to power in 2025.

Gerald shed light on inhumane border policies, citing examples from Australia and Israel that lead to severe pushbacks and jeopardise migrant lives. He criticised the EU's flawed agreements with Libya and Tunisia, highlighting their failures due to unsafe conditions in these countries. This has made the issue of returns a complex challenge for countries like Germany and Italy.

Therefore, Gerald argued that a paradigm shift is urgently needed: migration deals with safe third countries must be concluded, with cut-off dates and incentives for the reception countries to then reach zero deaths in the Mediterranean and in the English Channel. Focusing on the English Channel, he suggested that if Germany could agree to receive migrants who manage to reach the UK from mid-December, in return for the UK relocating 20,000 refugees from EU countries the following year, it could halt the loss of lives and disrupt the traffickers’ operations. This would show that solidarity works, and that such an agreement will reduce deaths and can become a model to follow.

Finally, he emphasised the need to push forward with the Germany-Gambia plan and advocate for a renewed EU-Turkey statement. He also suggested considering options like the Rwanda safe third country proposal as strategies to drastically reduce deaths in the Central Mediterranean in 2024.

Gerald at discussion
Photo: ESI