Last night, Professor Alexander Betts appeared on Amanpour, CNN International's flagship global affairs interview programme, to discuss the current Mediterranean refugee and migrant crisis. Here he argued that “The solution has to be found in international cooperation… we need to recognize a shared responsibility” towards protecting refugees, as many of the people are refugees from countries such as Syria, Eritrea and Somalia. And he called for “courageous political leadership to articulate to the public the difference between refugees and other categories of migrants.”
Regarding the EU’s decision to focus on destroying the smugglers’ boats, he stated that this will not address the underlying causes, and therefore it will not destroy the industry, because the underlying demand conditions will not be addressed.
When questioned about a proposal to instigate an operation akin to that used to address Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, he emphasized that the two contexts are very different. Whereas the Gulf of Aden situation was about criminality and piracy, the current situation is about “an underlying displacement crisis around the world”, where those involved are refugees and desperate people, so “even if we take a militaristic response, it won’t make the smugglers go away because the demand conditions will still be there and people will continue to try to come because they have very little alternative.”