A recent IRIN article on the need for work visas highlights the limited thinking on realistic policies to address rising irregular migration. As the UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants, Francois Crepeau, has said – the so-called migration crisis is policy driven. But as the numbers of people trying to reach Europe irregularly continues to cause alarm, beyond shock and awe where is the policy dialogue?

Most European countries have very few migration options outside of highly skilled employees or work sponsorship and, for refugees, small resettlement quotas. The UK probably has the largest range of immigration options including work, family reunion, short-stay and student visas. Further afield countries such as Canada, the US and Australia have large, relatively unproblematic annual immigration intakes.

Drawing on the country I know best – Australia – I would suggest a couple of options to start with:

  1. Temporary work visas: while this visa type has its critics (especially as it links the worker to an employer), it offers short term work opportunities in areas of skill shortages. Temporary residents pay tax, have no access to social services although for some temporary residence may be a pathway to permanent residence
  2. Seasonal work visas:  another short-term employer driven category for seasonal labour

For those who would argue that Europe has its own unemployment problem and cannot incorporate more irregular migrants, I would concur with Francois Crepeau who has highlighted how most irregular migrants end up employed in the informal sector already.

Currently most people reaching Europe irregularly have few, if any, options for applying for visas prior to leaving their own country. If the substantially large sums of money they spend on irregular passage could be instead put towards formal entry into Europe this could surely be money better spent. If Europe had better developed migration systems this could set a positive precedent in nearby transit countries, such as Libya, that also lack migration programs and regulations.

Surely in the face of continued irregular migration, countless deaths and overwhelmed reception systems, at least one of the above-mentioned options be trialed to show some new thinking in the migration policy space.