Wednesday, May 18

Migrations in the National Security Strategy: words and deeds

On December 28, the Council of Ministers approved the new National Security Strategy (ESN) for the next 5 years. This strategy extinguishes the one approved by the government of Mariano Rajoy in 2017 a year in advance, to adapt it to the current context, “characterized by greater geopolitical competition and a socioeconomic environment marked by the consequences of COVID, as well as by the acceleration of the transformation caused by technology and the ecological transition”.

Migrations appear once again as an area of ​​concern for national security in this new strategy, largely due to the so-called massive and irregular movements, that is, those that the State does not control with its visa and permit policies. “Irregular migratory flows” is precisely the specific title of the threat that is identified in the ESN with this issue, which assumes “an expected increase in migratory flows to Europe in the coming years” and classifies it as a challenge and as a “risk for the continuity of the Schengen area” the management of irregular flows.

In addition, climate change and its consequences (desertification, heat waves, droughts, reduced water availability, fires and floods, or loss of biodiversity, for example) are identified as a key trigger for new increases in migratory movements, which They come on top of other more traditional factors that persist today, such as poverty, political instability and conflicts in neighboring regions.

In response to this situation, within one of its three fundamental axes, (“A Spain that promotes the prosperity and well-being of citizens” – Axis 2), the ESN reflects as an outstanding objective for national security the ordering of flows and the fight against migrant smuggling and human trafficking networks, activities that proliferate above all in the countries of origin and transit, but also in those of destination, around irregular flows.

Regarding the management of migratory flows, in its planning section, the ESN highlights some important objectives:

  • a “permanent attention by the Public Administrations, with the involvement of the third sector and civil society”, without whose coordination of efforts it is recognized that the efficiency required for this policy is not possible.
  • a “comprehensive and preventive perspective” when addressing migration from the point of view of security, which is why “collaboration with the Maghreb, Sahel and West Africa” ​​stands out as “indispensable and irreplaceable” as countries of origin and transit of migrants and with the aim of “reducing irregular movements to Spain”
  • the need to “establish new routes of regular migration and improve existing ones as an essential part of the commitment with African countries”, a demand repeatedly claimed by experts in the field and that never seems to be fulfilled.

The concepts on migrations of this new NSS are not new, but basically coincide with those of the one signed by the Rajoy Government in 2017, which already referred to its interconnection with other global phenomena such as climate change or international economic inequalities and the need to confront them comprehensively, based on their causes, from cooperation, from their human dimension and from respect for human rights.

In these concepts, a clear landing in the migratory field of the “human security” approach is perceived, used in recent years from the academic world and other sectors as the most appropriate in the security-migration field, and which disputes the classic parameters of national security, by placing people and their rights at the center of political protection.

However, and without underestimating the effect of this approach on the national security strategy, it can be stated that it is not achieving the necessary scope at the operational level.

Despite the words, we verify that migrants who move to Spain and the EU outside of orderly and regular mechanisms are forced to travel in conditions of great sacrifice, suffering and misery. The lack of protection and legal helplessness of these people represent some of the most pronounced and massive violations of human rights known to our generation, which is why a much more notable effort is required in terms of cooperation for development and cooperation in matters of security with the countries of origin and transit, to prevent and prosecute them. On the other hand, the strict air, land and sea border control, as external borders of the EU, takes precedence over the obligations of legal protection of migrants, sometimes leaving in the background the access of refugees, minors or victims of deals with protection procedures to which they would be entitled.

The legal protection of migrants is a security issue, as is the protection of any human group, all the more so if it encompasses 15% of the population of your country or 23% of the population between 16 and 44 years old, that is, a segment that represents the bulk of the productive population, as is the case.

The great importance of this matter must be recognized and provided with the necessary means. The integration of immigrants and refugees is a fundamental aspect of national security, as admitted by the 2017 and 2021 ESNs. However, the latest crisis has accentuated the difference in terms of employment, income and well-being between the native population and that of non-community immigrants, widening the social gap and inequality, as pointed out by the Elcano Royal Institute in his analysis of prospects and challenges for Spain in the world in 2022. “Spain is at the head of Western Europe in this gap, according to Eurostat data. The unemployment rate among non-EU immigrants (23%) far exceeds that of Spaniards (13%, according to figures from the Active Population Survey in the third quarter of 2021). The percentage of adults who face difficulties making ends meet is 9% among Spaniards, but 21% among non-EU immigrants, according to the INE Living Conditions Survey.”

One of the possible improvements to be introduced at the operational level, based on the ESN, could be the creation of a coordinating body for (human) security or the assignment of this function to an existing one. This action could be aligned with one of the hallmarks of the document approved by the Sánchez executive, which is “co-governance” with the autonomous communities for the management of future crises and the prevention of threats “in matters where the competences are autonomous or shared. This idea would also seem compatible with the provision of a specific migration crisis management mechanism, which would guarantee the protection of the border in these situations, in accordance with national and European provisions, but at the same time ensure scrupulous respect for the legal protection of migrants, according to their particular needs and also solving the necessary coordination between “all public administrations (state, regional and local), as well as between the ministries, the private sector and civil society” involved. These coordinating mechanisms would favor “adopting an anticipatory approach and centering decision-making on the analysis of facts and objective data” and “developing preventive, detection and response capacity against hybrid threats”, if that were the case, as ESN intends in its general approach.

The concepts of human security and protection of the rights of migrants, which largely shape the ESN with respect to migration, must be sufficiently endowed and better transferred to the facts to effectively fulfill its mission.