24 April 2015. ECRE is deeply concerned to see that the European Council’s response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean is once more predominantly aimed at preventing migrants and refugees from reaching Europe and externalising restrictive border control policies to countries of transit and origin.
European leaders are shutting their eyes and refuse to see the refugee crises raging in our neighbourhood. They refuse to see that refugees use smugglers in desperation, because they have no other option and barely have any legal means to reach safety.
By investing all efforts on law enforcement and border management to stop smuggling and trafficking, without at the same time establishing accessible legal channels for refugees and migrants, EU states will be addressing only the symptoms, but not the humanitarian tragedy itself. EU leaders are missing the point if they believe that once smugglers are arrested and boats are destroyed, people will no longer attempt to cross the Mediterranean. Unintended consequences could include a shift to more dangerous alternatives, such as inflatable boats or smaller vessels carrying greater numbers. One way or the other, using one route or another, people fleeing conflict and human rights abuses will do whatever it takes to reach safety. Without a credible policy on legal and safe alternatives, the measures agreed are bound to fail and may put refugees’ and migrants’ lives further at risk.
EU leaders could have seized this occasion to keep the promise of the resettlement of “credible numbers of refugees” by the Home Affairs Ministers done in October 2014. Sadly, EU leaders failed again to make such commitment, except for the vague reference to a “voluntary pilot project on resettlement across the EU”.
In contrast, ECRE welcomes the commitment to at least triple the financial resources for EU Operations Triton and Poseidon allowing to increase the search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean and urges Member States to commit assets suitable for that purpose to both operations. It is finally acknowledged that there is no other option than to save lives at sea.
With the exception of the commitment for search and rescue, ECRE considers this special European Council as a missed opportunity. It is high time that Europe does justice to its history and its core values, and acts as a global actor protecting humanity and dignity.
- ECRE’s ten-point plan to prevent deaths at sea, 23 April 2015
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The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) is a pan-European alliance of 87 NGOs protecting and advancing the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons.