Speaking at the S&D press conference in Strasbourg today, S&D Group President Hannes Swoboda spoke on the refugee tragedy in Lampedusa and the situation of Syrian refugees, which will be discussed in tomorrow's key debate.
With regard to Lampedusa, Hannes Swoboda said:
"This tragic incident shows that we need to take European action. Individual member states must assume their responsibilities but refugees coming into Europe are crossing European borders. It is an EU competence, jointly with member states.
"On behalf of our Group, I call on EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy, to put this topic on the agenda of the next EU Council meeting. This issue has to be addressed at the highest political level.
"There are three areas for action. Firstly, we must help countries of origin so that the conditions which force people to leave are improved. Secondly, we must give more support to transit countries like Tunisia and Lebanon which are faced with such high numbers of refugees. Promises of support are not enough; we must help them financially and ensure that the EU budget provides for such financial assistance. Criminal gangs bringing refugees to Europe and paid for their illegal activities must be brought to justice. Finally, we have to change national laws which criminalise citizens who help refugees.
"Our Group fully supports the EU agreement on Eurosur, the new border surveillance system, which aims to foster better co-operation among EU countries by sharing information and reinforcing co-operation."
Speaking on the plight of refugees from Syria, Hannes Swoboda continued:
"As with the case of Lampedusa, we cannot call on countries on the frontline like Libya to solve the problem for us. The Syrian refugee problem affects the entire global community and richer continents like ours must do more. We have to provide financial help to those countries. The fact that the destruction of chemical weapons has begun is a good sign, but the war is not over yet. We have to continue our fight for an end to the war and work to find a peaceful solution, together with Russia."
Hannes Swoboda concluded by commenting on internal migration in Europe and the recent report from Commissioner László Andor on Roma integration:
"It is clear that we condemn any illegal activities like illegal camps or welfare tourism, but this report shows that internal migration can make a positive contribution to growth in Europe. Yet, we have to make sure that countries of origin from which Roma people flee, are assisted by the EU budget to improve living conditions in their countries. Finally, national governments must make sure that cities are assisted in their problems with these migration flows."