Speaking at the conference “Shifting EU borders and the access to international protection”, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Cecilia Wikström regretted that “[t]he EU asylum system is only accessible for those who manage to reach the European Union borders, while the most vulnerable never make it here.” One month after the Lampedusa tragedy, Wikström and the Red Cross EU Office opened a discussion on the urgent need of creating legal channels for safe access to EU territory for persons in need of international protection.
The Red Cross highlighted that protected entry into the EU is “a matter of urgency” and that promoting the issuing of humanitarian and protection visas, and resettling higher numbers of refugees, should be further explored by the EU and its Members States.
“What the EU Council did, is not sufficient, it is scandalous – the leaders of the Member States postponed the real discussion on migration and asylum, hoping that the problem will disappear,” Wikström said in reference to the European Council meeting on 24 and 25 October 2013.
Based on a report published by the Red Cross EU Office, the panellists focused their discussion on “externalisation”, the process by which EU Member States shift responsibility for migration control to the migrants’ countries of origin and of transit. Speakers highlighted the repercussions of externalisation on migrants’ ability access international protection and safety, driving forcing them to seek more dangerous routes and further increasing their vulnerability.
Recommendations included among others to end detention of migrants and to establish independent border monitoring and reporting mechanisms in line with the principle of transparency and human rights standards.
Tineke Strik, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, emphasised that due to disagreements among EU Member States on who is responsible for disembarkation of migrants, lives of migrants are lost at sea. Strik also underlined that EU Member States should not be allowed to sign bilateral agreements with countries that violate human rights.