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The Guardian view on European migration policy: a cruel, myopic shambles | Editorial

As Sweden takes over the EU presidency, the prospects of a coherent approach are minimal, thanks to the influence of the radical right

On the Greek island of Lesbos this week, 24 NGO volunteers went on trial in a case condemned by a European parliament report as a “criminalisation of solidarity”. All faced charges relating to assistance given to migrants fleeing the Syrian civil war in 2015-16. Accused of accessing Greek coastguard radio channels and illicitly entering restricted zones on Lesbos, the volunteers risked years in prison before most charges were dropped on procedural grounds. But their draconian treatment, increasingly replicated elsewhere in Europe, had already achieved its central purpose: the organisation they worked for no longer dares to operate off Lesbos, where at least 22 migrants died in October attempting the crossing from Turkey.

As idealistic young Europeans and former refugees are hauled into the dock for attempting to save lives at sea, Europe’s governments are pondering what more can be done to shore up the defences of a rich continent against the poor and the desperate. In the Arctic town of Kiruna, the first meeting convened by the six-month Swedish presidency of the European Union has just taken place. This precedes a February summit in which reducing irregular migration numbers will be a central theme.

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