The Unbearable Lightness of Leadership

Oct 18, 2017

Effective leadership on migration must not cower before xenophobic political movements but take a principled stand and forge a new narrative

argues Eugenio Ambrosi, IOM Regional Director for the EU, Norway and Switzerland.

First published in EU Observer, 18 October 2017

Contrary to the prevailing mainstream political narrative, the recent migration flows across the Mediterranean to Europe are not the problem. But they have exposed the real problems we face. The most significant of these is the crisis of leadership that has set states against each other, and citizens against newcomers, in a race to the populist bottom.

Migration policy "breakthroughs" are heralded by reduced numbers of people making it to Europe and rewarded inversely by higher poll numbers and more votes. These indicators tell us nothing about how migration is really being handled, but a lot about the current state of migration governance.

The numbers game is playing out as mainstream policies continue to move towards the populist right, where xenophobia is the ruling principle, in what has been described as a tactical move to 'neutralise' extremist parties and recover their voting base. Instead, pandering to anti-migrant sentiment legitimises and strengthens them.