Both sides of the Atlantic Ocean could witness migration crises this year. But the number of illegal arrivals is likely to be much smaller in Europe than in the United States.
That’s in large part due to the role of gatekeepers: nearby countries with which the European Union (EU) and various member states made agreements to stop, or at least mitigate, the flow of irregular mass migration.
. . .
Then why can’t more of them reach the southern border of Europe? The gatekeepers.
From Turkey and Egypt to Niger, Senegal, and Morocco (just to mention a few), Europe has an extended network of agreements, cooperation, and common policies with states that have tools to stem illegal migration toward the EU. Perhaps the most famous example is Turkey, which hosts at least 3.6 million Syrian nationals and hundreds of thousands of other refugees.
Following the EU-Turkey Statement, Ankara agreed to prevent migrant crossings toward Europe. As compensation, the EU and its member states have mobilized €9.5 billion ($10.3 billion) for refugees and host communities since 2015. While it seems like a significant amount, compared with the potential cost of managing millions of new irregular arrivals, it is really a cheap solution.
. . .
In comparison, the United States has modest agreements with gatekeeper countries, some elements of which—for instance, Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as “Remain in Mexico”—were jeopardized in recent years. Much of the previously promised aid for certain transit states and countries of origin—such as the $4 billion package of assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—hasn’t materialized. Therefore, countries south of the U.S.-Mexican border have little intention of stopping the flow of irregular migration. President Joe Biden’s recent summit in Mexico is not likely to change this; the policies outlined by the three North American leaders may well increase the flow of migration.
Walls and proper border policies are key instruments for solving migration crises. But it is also true that the protection of a country does not start at its borders. In the age of irregular mass migration, gatekeeper states must be part of a durable solution—even if it requires attention, and sometimes financial investment, from the destination country.