We are disappointed at the measures proposed in the European Council Special meeting as they indicate an insistence on interpreting the deaths of over 1,000 persons as an illegal migration phenomenon. As long as Member States stick to this approach, migrants and refugees will perish as they knock on Europe’s doors.
In the spirit of our earlier statement on the recent tragedies in the Mediterranean, we welcome the Meeting’s clear conclusion that “our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.” We also welcome the commitment to resettle higher numbers of refugees and to explore internal relocation programmes, as indications of solidarity with refugees and other States receiving and hosting them. Yet we are extremely saddened that the Statement is essentially yet another declaration that European Union borders will be reinforced, as evidenced by repeated references to “illegal migration flows”.
The Statement seems to indicate that there will be no extension of search and rescue coverage. If so, the commitment to prevent people from dying will remain a paper statement marking 23 April as the day the European Union decided to abandon people at sea. We are eager to see details of the upcoming roadmap, yet also remind the European Union Institutions and Member States of the extreme urgency to shift from discussion to action as the next tragedy could possibly be days away.
Furthermore, we question the Statement’s assumption that traffickers, smugglers and countries of transit are the true problems. Whilst it is undeniable that they are part of the problem, and therefore ought to be included in holistic solutions, their role remains secondary in the face of the impossibility of refugees to safely and legally enter the European Union. The proposed measures might be effective in curbing trafficking and smuggling activities from Libya, but will definitely lead to the opening up of new and possibly more dangerous routes.
Once again, we urge the European Union not to forget the imperative of also ensuring dignified reception conditions for survivors, prompt access to asylum procedures and appropriate modalities to respectfully deal with corpses and their possessions.
aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Foundation for Shelter and Support of Migrants, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant’s Network for Equality, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, Peace Lab, People for Change Foundation, SOS Malta.