While justice and home affairs ministers met in Luxembourg in the last two days to discuss the state of play on migration in the EU, at least 13 more people lost their lives trying to reach Europe. The S&D Group is calling for action from member states to prevent tragic and meaningless deaths in the Mediterranean and for a fair system of distribution based on solidarity.
S&D MEPs regret that member states failed to make any real progress on agreeing on at least a temporary mechanism on disembarkation in the central Mediterranean, let alone starting discussions on fairer, permanent and sustainable solutions that include also economic migrants.
According to the UN's International Organization for Migration, at least 18,000 people have lost their lives in Mediterranean crossings since 2014. These figures show the need for action now and for a comprehensive reform that reinforce the search and rescue operations and a distribution of migrants based on EU-wide solidarity.
Claude Moraes MEP, S&D vice-president for resilient democracies and fundamental rights, said:
“Six years on from the tragedy in Lampedusa, we are still turning on the news to see the tragic sight of young children, women and men drowning at sea. Yesterday at the justice and home affairs Council, there was a chance to make a difference but Ministers failed once more.
“While women and children drown in the Mediterranean, we urgently need a more predictable and sustainable approach to search and rescue. This is first and foremost the responsibility of states and should not have to be outsourced to humanitarian actors who have stepped in over the last years. The EU has to act responsibly and fulfil its humanitarian obligations in the Mediterranean.
“Any arrangement that ensures the safety of people in distress at sea, and finds them a safe port to disembark, even with only a small number of member states participating, would be an important first step. However, this will not replace the need for a profound reform of the European asylum system, in particular the Dublin rule based on the principles of mandatory solidarity and responsibility sharing which continues to be the only viable long-term solution.”
Birgit Sippel MEP, S&D coordinator on the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, said:
“The situation in the Council is unacceptable. Once again, we see that member states cannot agree on any relocation mechanisms, let alone temporary measures. The failure of the Council is even more deplorable given that a fraction of the migrants that are reaching the EU was under discussion, compared to other routes.
“We urgently need to transform this dark chapter in the EU’s migration and asylum policy into a positive turning point. We need to create an EU-wide solution that also supports other external border countries like in Greece, Cyprus or Spain.
“Saving lives is both a moral and legal duty. We should not be criminalising NGOs or detaining their ships, but applauding them for their courage and bravery in their efforts. However, this enormous task should not be left to NGOs alone, but taken care of by public authorities. The best way to save lives is through safe and legal pathways, and full support of UNHCR evacuation operations from Libya would be a big step in the right direction.
“The news yesterday reflects the block that we have seen in the Council for years on reforming common European asylum system.”