Migration back to the forefront of EU politics in 2021

Migration back to the forefront of EU politics in 2021
Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Aida Sanchez AlonsoChristopher Pitchers
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Migration once again became a key issue in the bloc in 2021 as thousands gathered on the EU's border with Belarus. Here's a look back.


Migration once again became a key issue for Europe this past year as tensions flared up at the EU's border with Belarus.

Hundreds of migrants gathered at the bloc's border as the EU accused Belarus of waging a hybrid war and encouraging migration in retaliation for sanctions.

There were around 2,000 people gathered there by the end of November, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Yet the numbers greatly differ from the ones recorded during the 2015 migrant crisis, when over one million people reached Europe by sea.

In response, countries on the eastern border have erected fences asking for funds for anti-migrant measures, even as the European Commission says they will not pay for barbed wire or walls.

Frontex on the frontline

Also this year, Brussels' very own border agency, in charge of handling migrants, had dilemmas of its own.

Frontex was caught up in numerous scandals including the accusation that it turned a blind eye to illegal pushbacks at Greece's borders.

A report by investigative website Bellingcat said that Frontex knew about the pushbacks and failed to do anything about it.

The Warsaw-based agency denied the allegations, but the reputational damage was already done.

France/UK row

Meanwhile, France and the UK were at odds over increased migrant crossings in the English Channel. Thousands have attempted to make the journey, with asylum seekers gathering in tiny boats to make the dangerous journey.

In November, at least 27 migrants died while attempting to make the crossing.

But the issue remains divisive, with both France and the UK placing blame over the tragedy.

The EU's own migration policy remained an unsolved puzzle in 2021 with little agreement on the European Commission's latest proposal for how to proceed.

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