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European Council on Foreign Relations

Charles led a Black Coffee Morning at the European Council on Foreign Relations on "Europe and Migration: Reconciling Europe's interests with fundamental rights."

"Hard hats versus open-toed sandals": managing migration while protecting rights.

Is the fact of having a secure border a breach of fundamental rights by its very existence? Is a cap on the overall number of migrants, or sections of the migrant population desirable, or is it indeed possible under international law? Is an amnesty for illegal migrants a helpful initiative for moving the debate forward and starting again from scratch? How should we handle the close links between illegal migration and serious and organised crime? Which is the greater pressure: overcrowding or serious skills and labour gaps in the UK economy? All the thorny issues were up for discussion in the Black Coffee Morning that ECFR hosted yesterday with Charles Clarke, former UK Home Secretary, and ECFR Council member.

Charles Clarke talked very frankly about the challenges of managing migration in a way which does not compromise the fundamental rights of migrants. He characterised balancing liberty and security in Europe's relations with its neighbourhood or the debate between "hard hats and open-toed sandals" as a huge challenge, but not an intractable problem.

The current context in North Africa sharpened the discussion. Charles Clarke welcomed the debate at European level on how to respond to the major waves of migration across North Africa and towards Europe, as a result of political unrest, in a more global way. While he was not optimistic about the prospect of reaching a new deal which encompassed not only European border management, but also encouraged greater exchange of students and workers, and supported economic development and political reform in North African countries through conditionality, he argued that the debate about the interrelationships of these issues was important. It moves migration into the sphere where it rightly sits: it is not only a domestic EU issue, but cuts across many aspects of foreign policy too.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

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