Max Holleran in Boston Review:
This summer’s holiday season in the Mediterranean began with the startling announcement, from the International Organization for Migration, that more than 3,000 migrants have already died in 2016 attempting to cross into Europe over the Mediterranean Sea. While Germany resettled nearly a million people in 2015, other EU nations have been far more reluctant. Since last year, the European public has resolutely told their national leaders to begin deportations and reform border security, often in urgently nationalistic language of the kind found in Brexit’s “Breaking Point” ad. The EU has begun to tighten entry for those immigrating from outside of the continent, and securing the southern border has become an existential test of whether the political federation can survive. Mediterranean countries are on the frontline of this effort despite their limited economic resources compared to their wealthier Northern neighbors. They have been tasked with the role of sentry, patrolling the walls of fortress Europe. Yet a backdoor to the castle seems to have been left open.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, many Mediterranean countries have begun to offer citizenship-for-sale to non-European nationals. These countries include places hit hard by austerity like Cyprus, Portugal, and Spain (where the program is called “golden visa” in a nod to the optimism about the value of an EU passport as well as excitement for the wealth that citizenship investors could potentially bring). Often connected to the purchasing of property, these programs offer residency, a passport, and—after several years—full citizenship to those able to pay several hundred thousand euros. Selling citizenship is a contentious idea that disrupts some of our basic notions about what it means to belong to a national community. Mediterranean states support it partly as a way to raise revenues after the global financial crisis, which brought budget slashing and pushed unemployment over 20 percent in many countries.