The European Union urgently needs to change its mindset and approach to migration control. No matter how high member states try to build their walls, no matter how often they shift responsibility to neighbouring countries, and no matter how often they try to turn a blind eye, people will still be compelled to leave their country. And so, more lives will be lost off Europe’s shores
A missed opportunity: why is the EU migration "Task Force" failing to meet its objective to save lives
(Brussels, 18 December 2013) The European Union (EU) has missed a key opportunity to save lives in the waters off its shores which are fast becoming a graveyard for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, said Amnesty International ahead of this week’s December European Council.
Following the October tragedy off the island of Lampedusa, which claimed close to 400 lives, the October Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council endorsed the Commission proposal to set up a Task Force on the Mediterranean (TFM) with the aim to deploy an "extensive" search and rescue operation from Cyprus to Spain to "prevent further loss of lives at sea".
This move was welcomed by Amnesty International. However, the Commission Communication on the work of the Task Force Mediterranean (4.12.2013 COM(2013) 869), which reflects the outcomes of the TFM meetings with member states, has not met the much needed and original objective to protect migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and save lives. None of the 38 actions envisage the promised increase of EU-wide search and rescue, nor do they robustly address the issue of safe routes necessary to avoid hazardous journeys towards the EU.
The TFM Communication and its actions focus once more on border control. Rather than ensuring enhanced resettlement, humanitarian admission, relaxation of visa restrictions and the opening of channels for legal migration, it looks to countries with sub-standard human rights records such as Libya to take people off their hands.
"The European Union urgently needs to change its mindset and approach to migration control. No matter how high member states try to build their walls, no matter how often they shift responsibility to neighbouring countries, and no matter how often they try to turn a blind eye, people will still be compelled to leave their country. And so, more lives will be lost off Europe’s shores", said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.
The TFM Communication and its 38 actions are due to be endorsed by EU heads of states at this week’s European Council. Ahead of the last European Council of 2013, and before further perilous journeys commence in the new year, the EU must implement a protective migration policy with increased search and rescue, safe routes for refugees, and one that does not rely on outsourcing migration control to countries with deplorable human rights standards and records.
"The member states need to ensure that protection of people is put at the forefront of any migration policy, and translate this into a robust political commitment at the December European Council. Human rights must also be firmly integrated and reflected in the EU’s longer term policy planning, which the Council will revert to in June 2014", added Beger.
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