NIAS Europe Monitor

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NIAS Europe Monitor
Spain, Morocco and the rise of rightwing politics in Europe over immigration

  Chetna Vinay Bhora

The constant surge in migrants from Morocco has put Spain and other European countries in a fix. As migration has become a domestic concern, the EU’s approach is becoming more stringent

The recent development between Morocco and Spain with migrants swimming into the latter’s enclave from the former has escalated the crisis in the relationship between the two countries. As a result of the Western Mediterranean migration route, Spain has been experiencing spikes in the influx on its Southern Coast as well as on the Canary Islands. This steady spike has brought concerns over migration that has been helpful in fuelling the rise of Vox, a far-right party that entered the parliament in 2019. Ever since 2002, this has been a challenge for the Sanchez government in Spain.

Migration and the rise of rightwing politics
There has been an increase in support for right-wing and populist parties over the issue of immigration. From Germany, where the AfD has slowly become the biggest opposition party in Bundestag, to Spain where the Vox party has become the third-largest reckoning force in the parliament, one could see a trend in politics. A new bloc constituted with nine far-right parties in the European Parliament known as Identity and Democracy (ID) portrays this trend.

Consequently, the voters’ frustration with the political setup and their increasing concerns regarding globalisation, immigration, dilution of national identity and the alleged success of the EU plays a part in the shifting of ideologies and letting the periphery parties take over. 

The League in Italy had seen a sudden boost in their popularity with the coincidence of the financial crisis and a surge in the influx of the Sub-Saharan migrants from North Africa in 2016. Matteo Salvini became more popular after he promptly led the anti-immigration policy which barred humanitarian rescue ships from Italian posts. In Germany, the AfD has been pushing for strict anti-immigration policies, adopting hostility for Islam and breaking decades-old anti-Nazi taboos. The party gained popularity and support soon after Germany allowed over a million undocumented immigrants into the nation. In spite of attempts made by Chancellor Angela Merkel to acclimatise her stance on immigration, the AfD had added to its electoral success and now has representatives in every state’s parliament. 

The upsurge of the far-right Vox party in Spain has similar reasons as the other European nations and has become one of the biggest political stories. Vox claims to be the defenders of the Spanish unity, promising to deport illegal immigrants and annul laws against gender violence. It shot to popularity in 2017, while it called for a suspension of autonomy for the North-Catalonian region after separatists failed to push for independence in the same year. 

What surprises the others is the marred history of Spain under the rule of Dictator Francisco Franco, a far-right leader eventually closing all the gates for the re-entry of far-right parties. Subsequently, the rise of right-wingers has encompassed almost all the EU countries. 

EU and the legal question over migration
The EU countries have been closely watching the developments in Ceuta . Ever since Europe’s migration crisis in 2015, the bloc has been trying to cut down the inflow of migrants to Europe; there has been pressure on  transit countries like Morocco, Turkey and Libya to hold back migrants. 

Following the consistent increase in arrivals recorded in 2018 on the Western Mediterranean route, the EU launched a number of new initiatives with partner countries including intensified cooperation within the EU-Morocco partnership. Turkey’s land border with Greece experienced a similar crisis last year, exposing the loopholes in such deals which can give the transit countries plenty of leverage over the EU. 

With an aim to reduce the asylum-seeking process among the member states to fix what EU leaders acknowledge was an ineffective system, the 2020 pact aims to better at sharing the burden of relocating asylum seekers. The Common European Asylum System (CEAS) sets minimum standards for the treatment of all asylum seekers and applications from across the EU nations. 

The 2015 migration crisis highlighted the need to reform the EU asylum rules. As per the old rules, asylum seekers are not treated uniformly across the EU and the proportion of positive asylum decisions in different countries also varies greatly. As a result of which the asylum seekers travel all across Europe and apply for asylum in countries where they believe they will have a higher chance of receiving international protection. 

The 2015 crisis has put the EU in a spot over migrants. Dumping of the Dublin Regulation after the crisis had brought some relief in the zone, with Morocco’s relaxation on migration control it is making the ties sour. 

Morocco’s aim is to get international recognition of its claim over Western Sahara and stop the Polisario front leader from making his point to the EU nations as Moroccans do not want to see a separate Western Saharan region. All these equations lead to a turbulent and unprecedented crisis within a crisis. Apart from the new policy regulations, the rising identity politics and far-right ideologies have made the region more hostile and volatile to migrants. Right-wing populism has only fuelled the identity politics, racial discrimination and neo-Nazi ideology prevalent, the current shift in ideology and political trends seems worrisome. 

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