12.03.2015

The Minis­ters of Inte­rior of dif­fe­rent EU Mem­ber Sta­tes – among them the Ger­man Minis­ter Tho­mas de Mai­zié­re – sug­gest the set­ting up of “asyl­um cen­ters in Nort­hern Afri­ca”.

EU camps shall keep refu­gees from attempts to cross the Medi­ter­ra­ne­an – alle­ged­ly to pre­vent deaths at sea. Sin­ce mon­ths the talk about so-cal­led ‘Wel­co­me Cen­ters’ or ‘camps in Nort­hern Afri­ca’ overs­ha­dows the dis­cus­sion about European refu­gee poli­ci­es. Revi­ta­li­zing the ever­green ‘camps some­whe­re in Afri­ca’ comes at a time when Euro­pe has con­scious­ly redu­ced its capa­ci­ty for res­cue at sea. This means that the death rate in the Medi­ter­ra­ne­an is rising fur­ther – more than 400 refu­gees have died on their way to Euro­pe wit­hin the last weeks – more than 4000 died last year. 

“This deba­te is cyni­cal, unrea­listic and a decep­ti­on in order to cover up Europe’s com­ple­te inac­tion in regard to the enor­mous num­bers of deaths in the Medi­ter­ra­ne­an and the mise­ry of refu­gees on the other side” says Karl Kopp, Direc­tor of European Affairs at PRO ASYL. 

European caco­pho­ny – com­ple­te inac­tion facing mas­si­ve num­ber of deaths

Ahead of today’s European Coun­cil mee­ting, Ita­li­an Minis­ter of the Inte­rior Alfa­no announ­ced that Ita­ly wants to set up inter­na­tio­nal ‘recep­ti­on faci­li­ties’ in Tuni­sia, Niger and Sudan. A ‘scree­ning pro­ce­du­re’ shall iden­ti­fy refu­gees the­re. The­se refu­gees are then to be dis­tri­bu­t­ed among EU Mem­ber Sta­tes. Tho­se ‘not in need of pro­tec­tion’ are to be retur­ned. EU Com­mis­sio­ner Avra­mo­pou­los swag­gers that pro­tec­tion see­kers could turn to EU Embas­sies in order to have their asyl­um claim asses­sed. Ger­man Minis­ter of the Inte­rior de Mai­zié­re pri­des him­s­elf to have initia­ted this deba­te about ‘Wel­co­me Cen­ters’. Just befo­re that he hea­vi­ly advo­ca­ted for the ter­mi­na­ti­on of the Ita­li­an res­cue at sea ope­ra­ti­on ‘Mare Nostrum’, becau­se it had tur­ned into a ‘bridge to Euro­pe’.

If it were about reli­e­ving the suf­fe­ring of refu­gees – as clai­med in all state­ments – then the fla­wed Fron­tex mis­si­on ‘Tri­ton’ would have been sus­pen­ded and a European Res­cue at Sea Ser­vice would have been set up along­si­de a generous admis­si­on pro­gram for refu­gees on EU level. Nume­rous refu­gee camps alrea­dy exist on the Afri­can con­ti­nent as well as in the sta­tes neigh­bo­ring Syria and Iraq. The cru­ci­al chal­len­ge is to offer refu­gees in the­se camps pro­tec­tion and a life in digni­ty wit­hin the EU.

For legal ent­ry chan­nels for refu­gees and res­cue at sea

Coor­di­na­ted admis­si­on: Sin­ce the capa­ci­ties in Syria’s neigh­bo­ring sta­tes have alrea­dy reached their limits a long time ago, Euro­pe has to resett­le­ment refu­gees in a coor­di­na­ted way. Com­mis­sio­ner Avro­mo­pou­los could ful­fill his tasks by orga­ni­zing a European resett­le­ment con­fe­rence for Syria and Iraq. He should advo­ca­te for the uti­li­za­ti­on of exis­ting instru­ments like huma­ni­ta­ri­an admis­si­on and resett­le­ment pro­grams, unbu­reau­cra­tic gran­ting of visas and exten­ded fami­ly reuni­fi­ca­ti­on to spa­re hund­reds of thousands of refu­gees from the peri­lous jour­ney over sea.

Evacua­ti­on from Libya: Refu­gees from Syria, Eri­trea and Soma­lia etc. strugg­le for their lives in Libya. An evacua­ti­on of the­se stran­ded pro­tec­tion see­kers would be a huma­ni­ta­ri­an impe­ra­ti­ve. The EU-Sta­tes have quick­ly and care­ful­ly extrac­ted their own natio­nals from the coun­try. Refu­gees were left behind wit­hout pro­tec­tion and are forced to take the often dead­ly pas­sa­ge to Euro­pe by boat.

European Res­cue at Sea Agen­cy: The Medi­ter­ra­ne­an is our sea; res­cuing boat peop­le is a com­mon European respon­si­bi­li­ty. Euro­pe has to Europea­ni­ze and mas­si­ve­ly expand ‘Mare Nostrum’, crea­ting a civil European Res­cue at Sea Ser­vice. 

Stop push-backs at Europe’s exter­nal bor­ders: At the land bor­ders of the EU (Bul­ga­ria, Greece, Ceu­ta, Melil­la) pro­tec­tion see­kers are being sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly, ille­gal­ly pushed back. Adhe­ring to human right stan­dards would grant refu­gees access to EU ter­rito­ry.

Don’t let down refu­gees and EU bor­der sta­tes: arri­ving refu­gees need to be allo­wed to tra­vel on to their fami­lies and com­mu­nities in other EU sta­tes. If the new Greek government would serious­ly intro­du­ce a huma­ne refu­gee poli­cy and stop push-backs at its land and sea bor­ders, then EU sta­tes would have to allow new arri­vals to tra­vel on in return. 

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