The crisis which began in September 2013 with the shipwreck highlighted by the media off the coast of Lampedusa marked a critical point in the relationship between policies and politics regarding the national and European Union's governance of immigration.

Having to acknowledge the crisis of representational democracy through the erratic decisions of governments owing to the excessive search for consent is dramatic, especially when these decisions end up having a bearing on life and death at sea.

These are processes of cyclical perversion, that are not surprisingly linked to times of economic downturn which often lead the other, the foreigner, to be identified as the incarnation of all worries and fears, as proven by the Eurostat polls taken over the last three years.

Nor is it just an Italian or European phenomenon: the aesthetic shaping of migration and all that goes along with it (security, unfair work competition, state costs, cultural shocks) is the strongest and most recurring scapegoat in the history of human societies.

It's worthwhile recalling that in the United States the electoral consensus in the 2016 presidential elections was built around the symbol of a wall, during a historical period when the federal migratory balance was negative.

Led by electoral worries and mechanisms, the democratic governments of advanced countries have had to re-think and develop new systems of governance. One instance for example is the innovation on matters of EU agreements, with the growing use of "agreements" known as Compact and the at times excessive simplification of the concept "more for more" regarding cooperation agreements with the countries of origin and transit. More resources in exchange for greater regard for the needs of the donor countries. What the Latins would have termed a do ut des. Development projects in exchange for a greater effectiveness and more initiatives designed to control migratory flows.

The last five years have led to the fraying of agreed forms of conduct that are enshrined in international law. The confusion generated around sea rescues and the shared responsibility over the salvage operations, the principle of safe harbour and the shelving of non-refoulement, provide visible proof of the retrenchment that is affecting the values of what was once known as the international community.

Even the principles of the European Union, if we take the internal management of asylum seekers as a tool for understanding reality, show once again how we have become politically and legally distant from a true federation of states.

We are too close to the facts that have taken place to identify the very moment in which our values became more negotiable. Yet, in spite of all this, we can admit to a greater knowledge of the world and of the phenomena that await us outside our boundaries.

Firstly and fore mostly the awareness that the growing migratory pressure is not an emergency, it’s a structural feature: even if we take into consideration the United Nation's rosiest forecast on the demographic growth of the African continent, connected to the medium term effects of climate change, as Emanuele Confortin discusses in greater detail elsewhere in this issue of Eastwest.

Given this premise and taking into account the limitations – which now appear undeniable – to the capacity for integration of the European continent, it has now been commonly agreed that the only way forward is a governance of flows that is no longer assigned to the countries of origin alone, but also to so called transit countries.

In the current context and with particular focus on the Italian perspective, the transit countries that have seen the development of people smuggling, long and illegally organised journeys from the main countries of origin (Nigeria, Mali, Eritrea, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, Gambia) all aiming to reach the European continent.

Plus, it's worth recalling the principle of "Country of first arrival" as foreseen by the Dublin Regulation and the strengthening in the application of the Eurodac regulation of 2014 – which imposes the taking of fingerprints for all migrants – create an inseparable bond between the migrant and a country like Italy: a country which, even though given its characteristics could be considered those of another "transit" country, and not a final destination, has become a destination country.

So if we admit, therefore, that for reasons of consensus, it is no longer possible to exponentially enhance the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the national and European reception system, it becomes a priority to outsource this processes to third countries that have the right approach as capable partners that respect human rights.

A separate case, owing to its recent history, is Libya. The Libyan state led by Gaddafi was mainly a destination state for migratory flows within the African continent and only secondarily a transit country toward the European continent. Already under the Colonel's one had to recognise the capacity of a state to control its own borders without heeding international law could turn out to be a very effective took of political pressure to be exerted against destination countries. Kelly Greenhill, in her brilliant essay of 2012 Weapons of Mass Migration, has organised the theory behind this pressure tool. Recognising this aspect also means admitting that, in spite of all possible realism and good intentions, relying on "final" transit countries is not and never will be sufficient or advisable for a long term programme.

A more promising way forward today, three years after the first agreements, would seem to be the cooperation initiative set up by Italy, the European Union and the Sahel states (Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso) that have joined together in a regionalisation process termed g5 Sahel.

These transit countries have shared characteristics, such as all being at the same early stages of economic development. Niger in 2016 was ranked 187 out of 188 countries according to the United Nations Human Development Index. The disproportion between the needs of these regional actors and the investment capability of European countries is blatant and clearly in favour of the latter. It should be worth noting for the sake of this argument that Niger alone, based on the statement by the Development Commissioner Neven Mimica, will receive one billion euro between 2017 and 2020 from the European Union.

What does this strategy on third party transit countries consist of? And why should it or could it provide a sufficiently balanced solution between the need for realism and respect for international law? The growth forecast for Niger, according to the international monetary fund, will stand at around 5.1% of GDP in 2018, which is an essential figure if we are to ask for more resilience in the reception of migrants while also calling for the replacement of the black market on migration. The growing political stability, a starting condition if we are to see agreements developed and completed not just announced, is currently guaranteed by President Mahamadou Issoufou and his open approach to western nations.

The g5 Sahel countries, as the regionalisation process of Sub-Saharan policies has been termed, are perhaps the best candidates to be involved in a renewed multi-lateral governance of the Euro-African migration phenomenon and the lesson on who to share responsibility in the end comes straight from Sahel and no longer from Europe.

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