24 April 2015
Days after what appears to be the deadliest incident in the Mediterranean, where over 800 migrants and refugees died, EU leaders gathered in an emergency summit in Brussels to decide on immediate steps to put an end to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. ECRE, together with other NGOs, has expressed concern over the European Council’s response as it predominantly aims at preventing migrants and refugees from reaching Europe and externalising restrictive border control policies to countries of transit and origin.
According to the Council’s conclusions, the EU intends to “strengthen [its] presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility”.
“If one looks at the nationalities of the people who are [arriving by boat] they are Syrians and Eritreans – these are people that are fleeing for their life. They are fleeing conflicts and dictatorships and they will leave no matter what. If [the EU] tries to address smuggling and trafficking only, it is only addressing the symptoms. But if you want to put smugglers out of business you need to create the opportunity for people to come legally,” stated Aspasia Papadopoulou, ECRE’s Senior Policy Officer.
In terms of safe and legal access to Europe, EU Heads of State have only agreed on setting up a voluntary pilot project on resettlement across the EU.
“We need substantial increases in the use of resettlement, family reunification, humanitarian visas and the temporary lifting of visa requirements if we are to stem the illegal smuggling. It is the lack of protection and access to regular migration channels which fuels smuggling,” stated Peter Balleis SJ, Director of JRS International Director.
In contrast, EU leaders have committed to triple the financial resources for Frontex Operation Triton in the least, allowing to increase the search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean. This will make Triton’s budget to a size equivalent to the one of the Mare Nostrum operation, which has saved the lives of over 100,000 people.
“The only result of the Council is the increase of the budget of Triton. It has been brought to €9 million. The mandate of Triton has not been revised and its focus remains the control of borders and its range of action circumscribed within 30 miles from Italian coasts. Not search and rescue,” stated the Italian Council for Refugees.
Earlier this week, in response to a Ten point action plan on migration put forward by the European Commission – which included actions such as the establishment of a new programme for rapid return of irregular migrants and the deployment of the immigration liaison officers in key third countries – ECRE published its Ten-point plan to prevent deaths at sea. The use of legal channels for persons in need of international protection, the launch of a European Search and Rescue Operation, as well as building protection capacity in regions of origin and ensuring true solidarity between EU Member States must be at the forefront of the EU’s response, ECRE stated.
For further information:
- British Refugee Council, EU leaders fail to agree safe routes for refugees, 24 April 2015
- Jesuit Refugee Council, Europe: opportunity to prioritise saving lives lost , 24 April 2015
- Aditus Foundation and 12 other Maltese organisations, ‘Is 23 April the day Europe decided to abandon people at sea?’: NGO comments on the statement from the European Council Special meeting of 23 April, 24 April 2015
- The Guardian, EU borders chief says saving migrants’ lives ‘shouldn’t be priority’ for patrols, 24 April 2015
- Amnesty International, European summit outcome: a face-saving not a life-saving operation, 23 April 2015
- ECRE, ECRE’s Ten-Point plan to prevent deaths at sea, 23 April 2015
- Times of Malta, Draft migration proposals ‘shameful’ – Hundreds hold symbolic funeral in Brussels, 23 April 2015
- Refugee Action, Europe turns its back on refugees, 23 April 2015
- Al-Jazeera, The Mediterranean: Graveyard of European values, 23 April 2015
- European Council, Invitation letter by President Donald Tusk to the Special European Council meeting, 22 April 2015
- Open Democracy, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks, Crisis in the Mediterranean: Europe must change course, 22 April 2015
- The Guardian UN’s François Crépeau on the refugee crisis: ‘Instead of resisting migration, let’s organise it’, 22 April 2015
- Human Rights Watch, EU ten-point plan is not an adequate response to deaths at sea, 22 April 2015
- LIBE Committee, Mediterranean tragedies: Civil Liberties MEPs call on EU leaders for concrete action to save lives, 22 April 2015
- UNHCR, UNHCR welcomes EU Mediterranean plans, but says more needs to be done, 21 April 2015
- Los Angeles Times, For Africa migrants, hope of a decent life trumps the perils at sea, 21 April 2015
- EuroNews, Refugee NGOs take apart EU’s 10-point plan on migrants crisis, 21 April 2015
- European Commission, Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council: Ten point action plan on migration, 20 April 2015
- Foreign Affairs Council – Press Conference, 20 April 2015
- International Organisation for Migration, Migrant Deaths Soar as Mediterranean Sees Worst Tragedy in Living Memory, 19 April 2015
- Saving migrant lives is imperative but what next? – UN human rights experts ask EU leaders, 24 April
- UNHCR press release New Mediterranean boat tragedy may be biggest ever, urgent action is needed now, 20 April 2015
- BBC News, Mediterranean migrants: Hundreds feared dead after boat capsizes, 20 April 2015
- European Commission, European Commission Statement on developments in the Mediterranean, 19 April 2015