(Brussels, 24/06/2015) Since the beginning of this year, more than 1800 people have died in the Mediterranean trying to reach the European shores, 50 times more than the figure recorded over the same period in 2014.
Multiple conflicts in nearby countries, an ongoing global displacement crisis as well as the lack of safe passages to Europe have pushed people fleeing wars, abject chaos and despair to take increasing risks and for many, to face deaths. The European Union cannot turn a blind eye on its responsibility in contributing to this situation and in addressing the situation now. This is the moment to live up to European founding values of solidarity and human rights.
At their meeting in Brussels this week, CONCORD calls on European leaders to act for the safety of people first and for their right to well-being.
Make migration a driver for development
For CONCORD, continued and predicted tragedies at sea constitute a grave indictment of current EU approach to migration that continues focusing on security and border controls rather than on ensuring the safety of people arriving on its shores. The balance between security and migrants’ rights is deeply uneven, against the fundamental values of the European Charter.
Current EU border enforcement approaches neither protect the fundamental human right to life nor respect international and regional treaties that require protection: for those fleeing persecution, serious human rights violations and torture; for those abused by human traffickers or smugglers; and for children.
CONCORD regrets that migration is clearly designed as a component of a security policy rather than a driver for development.
Therefore, CONCORD calls on Heads of States to take a holistic approach and address seriously the root causes of forced migration; these are the factors that force people to seek protection and a better life in Europe. Portraying the criminal activities of traffickers as the root causes of people migrating deliberately ignores these many factors.
CONCORD calls on Heads of States to reaffirm, like EU’s Development Ministers did recently, that the EU is committed to work on the “links between migration and development”, emphasizing that “development cooperation can contribute to ensuring that migration is a choice rather than a necessity”.
The EU should increase investment in inclusive development, decent work and social protection in countries of origin so that migration becomes an option among others and not a necessity, for people who migrate. EU should forge a new humanitarian and development policy for preventing crisis and conflicts as well as trade and common security policies that are coherent with development objectives.
Furthermore, under the ‘Cooperation with third countries”, the EU must refuse to negotiate with countries that do not respect human rights.
Open legal safe channels of migration
Restrictions on mobility and border controls currently in place create lucrative markets for traffickers as people seeking protection will inevitably continue to cross the Mediterranean even at high risks for their own lives. As long as legal migration routes to Europe remain closed, lives of migrants are in danger and their right to asylum is denied.
CONCORD calls on Heads of State to adopt measures to open realistic legal safe channels of migration to the EU, in order to reduce irregular migration and ensure that people migrate without risking their lives.
Especially, the EU should adopt proposals to enable safe, legal migration of low skilled/educated migrants, which represents the vast majority of migrants who will continue to migrate to Europe. Adopting a ‘Blue Card’ policy to “choose” our migrants is a denial of the realities on the ground and of the necessity of economic migrants to seek legitimate jobs and living conditions. In addition, this creates new brain and skill drains in countries of origin.
We urge Heads of States to· agree on a responsibility-sharing mechanism between Member States at the forefront of the crisis and the rest of the EU and adopts a binding, and not voluntary, policy of participation by all Member States in the reception and resettlement of migrants in a way that respects human dignity and the specific needs of vulnerable groups such as women, mothers, children and youth, people with health problems etc.
It is important that the solutions found by EU governments re-affirm the need to uphold asylum and refugee protection.
The new Commission relocation proposal is not a sufficient response to the number of migrants arriving and those that will arrive in the coming months. CONCORD highly questions the categorization of refugees used in the Commission proposal as it implies that for asylum seekers, who are not eligible to relocation, European solidarity will not apply. Italy and Greece will therefore remain alone to deal with their reception. The EC relocation proposal is already an admission that the Dublin Regulation is a failure.
Heads of States should ensure that asylum applications are examined in the country chosen by the asylum seeker.
Safety and dignity first
We are deeply concerned that the identification process of “persons in clear need of protection” (measure mainly targeting Syrians and Eritreans) involves coercive measures, through the detention of asylum seekers in administrative centers for months. Moreover, the identification should not be based on the nationality criteria but on the effective protection needs of the asylum seekers. Migrants’ rights and dignity must be preserved at all times.
Furthermore, the plan for military naval interventions to destroy vessels is not acceptable from both political and ethical points of view as this runs high risk to put migrants’ lives in great danger. Already, some say that “collateral damages” would be inevitable. This is an intolerable military response to a humanitarian structural phenomenon.
CONCORD strongly opposes such a risky military intervention and calls on the responsibility of the EU’s Heads of States to protect the lives of migrant women, men and children.
Notes to editors
1. CONCORD is the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs. It represents NGOs from all 28 EU member states, as well as 20 international networks and 3 associate members.
Contact: CONCORD PCD Coordinator Blandine Bouniol, Blandine.Bouniol@concordeurope.org Tel. +32 (0) 2 743 87 61