Fernando GUTIERREZ* (Spain)
14 November 2022
*This draft report was initially authored by Luca FRUSONE (Italy), GSM Rapporteur until 25 September 2022. Mr. Gutierrez kindly agreed to present the revised version on his behalf to the GSM.
Across the Alliance, migration has moved to the centre of domestic politics. This has largely been driven by growing international migration flows linked to war, civil strife, human security, the structural challenges of countries of emigration in terms of political participation and civil liberties, low levels of scientific research and technological development, demographic pressure, economic hardship, famine, climate change, and water scarcity.
Since 2014, Europe has confronted two massive waves of war-driven migration. The first arose during the conflict in Syria and Iraq and the second unfolded in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Until Russia attacked Ukraine in March of 2022, the MENA region was the source of most migratory flows to Europe. The phenomenon has shaped relations with countries in the region and become an element of the security dialogue with it.
Those fleeing violence generally migrate close to home in the hope that they might be able to return. In the midst of the civil war in Syria, those who left their homes often initially sought refuge within the borders of their own country. Once this became untenable, they moved within the region, settling in neighbouring Türkiye, Jordan, and Lebanon. The capacities of these host countries to handle this influx varied considerably. Eventually, refugees and migrants began to make their way to Europe.
The humanitarian crises that have driven millions to leave their homes have also pushed on cleavages within NATO member countries over issues like the capacity to absorb a significant number of migrants and on broader matters pertaining to national identity. Coping with the challenge requires not only measures that deal with the push factors in crisis-ridden societies, but also with how host societies prepare to cope with the challenge and the manner in which they cooperate with the countries of emigration as well as other host countries.
NATO itself has had to adapt to the migration challenge. It has recognised important changes in the nature of war, which have compelled it to cope not only with providing security in a period of great power competition, but also with terrorism, state conflict, cyber threats, threats to energy supplies and even the security dimensions of climate change and mass migration. All these phenomena interact in ways that have prompted a shift in thinking about security and created a framework for the concept of human security.
The war in Ukraine has once again focused attention on the migration challenge. Millions have moved from Ukraine into NATO member countries. The crisis has also precipitated soaring food prices and inflation that could destabilise fragile countries to the south which have been a traditional source of migration to Europe. This could result in further waves of migration if conditions grow desperate and thus represents a looming potential challenge for the European Union (EU), NATO, and their partners in the MENA region.
It is imperative that both the EU and NATO, working in their respective spheres, lay out a clear, comprehensive, and coherent strategy to address this burgeoning migration challenge. Unregulated migration is linked to a range of security threats that NATO can only partially contain. The EU has a broad array of tools, including development assistance, border control, police, diplomacy etc. which makes a closer partnership with NATO on these matters not simply compelling but essential.
Working to ensure the MENA region’s stability in the face of mounting economic, political, climate, food, and social challenges will remain a core interest of NATO and its partners in the region over the coming decades. NATO planners should continue to focus attention and provide adequate resources to defend these interests while promoting capacity building and resilience in the region. It must also ensure that refugees are never used as political pawns or instruments of political pressure. NATO member countries should, in particular, provide ample support to those so-called frontline states in the MENA region which are hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants who have fled conflict. Tough decisions will have to be made regarding the provision of humanitarian support to vulnerable communities in societies ruled by governments hostile to NATO.