GUE/NGL MEPs urge the Commission and member states to stop discussing asylum and search and rescue outsourcing and focus instead on safe and legal ways to the EU for asylum-seekers and migrants.
The MEPs are strongly critical of information published in the international press this weekend on immigration talks currently taking place at EU level that, if implemented, would result in a de facto refoulement of asylum-seekers.
The international press revealed the existence of a proposal by Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano to outsource search and rescue to countries such as Egypt or Tunisia who would then bring the rescued migrants to their shores. Originally leaked by Italian news agencies Asca and Redattore Sociale, the proposal, which aims to produce a “real deterrent effect, so that fewer migrants would be ready to put their life at risk to reach Europe’s coasts”, was presented to France, Germany, Spain and the European Commission in the margins of the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) last Thursday 12th March and discussed further at a meeting at the Commission on Tuesday 17th March.
Parallel to these talks at the JHA Council last week, interior ministers discussed setting up refugee camps in Northern Africa and the possibility to process asylum applications in these camps, a proposal that been repeatedly dismissed in the past 15 years by the Commission given the numerous legal and practical obstacles, including the risk of breaching the international principle of non-refoulement.
Cornelia Ernst, GUE/NGL coordinator on the LIBE Committee, said: “This is yet another attempt by member states trying to get rid of the people arriving at our shores in search of help and hope. This time they are exploiting the fact that search and rescue in the Mediterranean has not been working for years. But instead of trying to improve that situation they are prescribing a poison as medicine. The paper makes it perfectly clear that the overall aim is to make sure that nobody leaves the African coast for Europe. So to remedy the humanitarian catastrophe of people dying at sea, they propose to lock people into Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, risking another humanitarian catastrophe in those countries.”
French MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat said: “We are facing one of the biggest refugee crises since the Second World War. And how do member states respond? ‘Clear off!’ These two proposals represent a real danger and their message is quite clear: a further tightening of Fortress Europe and handing over our responsibility to third countries. Once again we see member states using every possibility not to comply with their international obligations of non-refoulement of asylum-seekers. This is just unacceptable.”
For Spanish MEP Marina Albiol: “They want other countries outside the EU to do their dirty work for them, they want the blood on the hands of others. They are trying to hide poverty and despair, they don’t want us to see how human rights don’t exist for these people so they send them to other countries, where they are not respected. This is another step towards total lack of respect of human rights and it goes directly against rights granted by European legislation.”
Italian MEP Barbara Spinelli commented: “Italian Interior minister Alfano’s proposals for outsourcing EU asylum policy and for search and rescue operations in cooperation with third countries are an underhanded and delusive tactic to prevent refugees from reaching Europe and seek international protection here. The actual purpose is the refoulement and repatriation of the refugees to the countries they escaped from. This instrumentalisation of the deaths in the Mediterranean is even more revolting knowing that the discussions at European level on safe and legal access to the EU for asylum seekers as well as the creation of more channels of legal migration are currently blocked by the Council of the European Union.”
For Swedish MEP Malin Björk: “This is an unacceptable process of externalising the EU’s borders and refusing responsibility for the current refugee situation in our neighbourhood. The EU and its member states must face up to their responsibilities and organise search and rescue operations and develop legal asylum entries and proper reception of people seeking protection in the EU.