12.06.2007

PRO ASYL demands a comprehensive rescue plan for refugees

PRO ASYL calls on the Home Secretaries of the EU countries meeting today in Luxemburg to adopt a comprehensive rescue plan for refugees. In order to put an end to the deaths of refugees on its borders Europe must return to its fundamental values and restore constitutional principles. “Currently, the law of the jungle rules at sea. Refugees drown – the European countries stand by and watch, loudly disclaiming any responsibity to rescue these people”, says Karl Kopp, speaker for European affairs with Pro Asyl.

PRO ASYL calls on the European Home Secretaries to:

– return to humanity and international law.

“When someone is in danger of drowning before your very eyes you must rescue them.” This basic principle goes without saying. The EU member states  must follow this fundamental tenet. Member states breaching it must be severely sanctioned.

– end its cooperation with non-EU countries that violate refugees’ and migrants’ basic human rights.

To hire countries such as Libya, Morocco or Mauretania as Europe’s policeman is not only cynical, it threatens refugees and migrants.

– grant refugees legal and safe entry to Europe.

Every country that commits to “absolutely observe the right to asylum” must grant safe entry and a fair asylum procedure to those seeking protection. This means more than just lifesaving in one’s own waters and stopping rejections at sea through Frontex operations, but rather providing a process for legal entry. Proposals for “protected entry procedures”, “humanitarian visa” and the abolishment of visa requirements have been on the negotiating table in Brussels for years.

– treat asylum-seekers humanely.

Excessive detention of people seeking protection as happens, for example, in Malta, is inhumane and violates constitutional principles and refugee rights.

– cooperate in receiving asylum seekers.

When it comes to receiving refugees, the stubbornly uncooperative behaviour of certain member states reinforces the Rambo-esque behaviour of member states on Europe’s borders. The strongest member states without external borders, like Germany, share significant responsibility for the brutality playing on Europe’s borders. Rather than using bureaucratic jurisdictional rules (the so-called Dublin II Regulation) to send refugees back to the first EU member state whose ground they touched, the EU member states must step up to the plate and accept responsibility for refugees from other member states.  Without a new burden-sharing mechanism among the EU member states, the race to the bottom will continue.

– not criminalize skippers.

It is indicative of the European policy regarding refugees that the lifesavers from the ship Cap Anamur are facing criminal charges in an Italian court. Not only must humanitarian help at sea be exempt from punishment; skippers who refuse to watch other human beings drown before their eyes without trying to help must be supported.

resettle those in need of special protection.

Only precious few refugees worldwide make it to Europe. As recommended by the EU commission in its ‘Green Book’ on the future ‘Common European Asylum System’, the EU member states should implement a generous resettlement program. Refugees wasting away in camps for years on end, deserve a chance for long term protection and a humane life.

– develop a joint EU immigration policy.

Europe needs legal immigration options, so that migrants aren’t forced to risk their lives trying to reach Europe’s shores though such deadly routes.  Resurrecting a guest worker program or circular migration model, however, as suggested by the German EU presidency, is insufficient.

– pursue a fair commercial policy.

In order to seriously fight forced migration and flight the underlying structures causing them must be done away with. Europe is destroying African markets with its farm subsidies, bringing about misery and hunger and creating new reasons to flee. The same goes for European fishing policy which deprives fishermen in West Africa of their livelihood. Rather than just handing out partly sums of humanitarian assistance, EU should adopt fair commercial, agricultural and fishing policies. Only then will we see real changes in what is now an extremely unfair distribution of wealth and development.

Karl Kopp, Speaker for European Affairs

All pressreleases