16 May 2014

Last Sunday at least 40 people died and 50 others were rescued after their boat capsized of the Libyan coast. A day later, 17 people died while a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized off the coast of the Italian island Lampedusa.

The European Commission and NGOs have consistently advocated for legal and safe channels for migrants and refugees to reach Europe.

EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has urged Member States to give concrete and effective follow up to the actions identified in the Action Plan designed by the European Commission and open legal channels for refugees to come to Europe legally. “By bringing these people safely to the EU, we could prevent them from falling in the hands of traffickers and smugglers who put migrants’ lives at risk to cross the Mediterranean. If each Member States would resettle even just a few thousand people, this would make a huge difference for hundreds of thousands of people who are in need of shelter,” the Commissioner stated.

“Every day that the EU dithers on creating safe and legal ways for protection seekers to come to Europe, more people die”, stated Philip Amaral from the Jesuit Refugee Service. “These tragedies happen because the EU has failed to establish a system that enables people to come to Europe safely, legally and with dignity. In this case we commend the Italian authorities for doing all they can to rescue the migrants. But rescue-at-sea is not a sustainable policy for protection. For that, we need EU member states to agree on new legal channels to come to Europe”, says Mr Amaral.

Amnesty International stresses that the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting (6 and 7 June) and the European Summit (26 and 27 June) “will be a good opportunity to redefine Europe’s approach to migration and asylum policy, before further lives are lost.”

Through a campaign by ECRE and over 100 other organisations, individuals can call on their government to act now to give refugees a safe way into Europe by relaxing visa restrictions, significantly increasing resettlement places and facilitating family reunification. Last week, the German Parliament has also called for an EU conference to increase the numbers of refugees from Syria resettled to EU countries.

Last week two boats carrying people from Somalia, Syria and Eritrea capsized in the Aegean Sea killing over 22 people.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 16 May 2014.
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