Lampedusa follow up: Concrete action to prevent loss of life in Mediterranean and better address migratory and asylum flows

| December 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

THUMB_I084396INT1HThe tragedy in Lampedusa, one of the many Europe has witnessed in recent years, prompted an unprecedented call for action by EU leaders and citizens. Today the Commission is proposing ways to increase solidarity and mutual support in order to prevent migrants’ deaths in the Mediterranean.

Actions proposed are the result of the work carried out by the Commission chaired Task-Force for the Mediterranean, with the aim to bolster EU’s policies and tools in the short to medium term.

“Two months ago the tragedy in Lampedusa triggered a very wide and emotional reaction across Europe – a chorus of voices calling for actions to avoid such disasters in the future. I trust this impetus has not vanished. Today we are putting on the table measures and proposals for a truly European response that can make a difference. I call on Member States to make full use of this unique opportunity to show that the EU is built on solidarity and concrete support. Now is the time to act,” said Home Affairs Commission Cecilia Malmström (pictured).

The Task-Force identified concrete actions in five main areas:

1) Border surveillance to help save lives

Europe must be able to provide assistance to those in need by stepping up its border control operations and enhance its capacity to detect boats in the Mediterranean.

A new concept to achieve this objective has been presented by Frontex to the Task Force. It aims at strengthening of aerial and maritime surveillance and rescue capacity thereby saving lives of migrants in distress at sea in the three Frontex-co-ordinated operations taking place in Greece and Italy.

The efforts in national borders surveillance will be fully coordinated with the operations undertaken by Frontex which are part of the already existing European Patrols Network.. According to Frontex estimations, the deployment of additional assets would amount to some €14 million in 2014.

The newly operational European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) is part of these efforts (IP/13/1182 and MEMO/13/1070). By providing with a better picture of what is happening at sea, it will strengthen the information exchange and cooperation within and between member states’ authorities, as well as with Frontex. Information on incidents and patrols will be shared immediately by the newly established National Coordination Centres and Frontex.

Shipmasters and merchant vessels should be reassured once and for all that helping migrants in distress will not lead to sanctions of any kind and that fast and safe disembarkation points will be available. It has to be clear that, provided they are acting in good faith, they would not face any negative legal consequences for providing such assistance.

2) Assistance and solidarity

While member states have the responsibility to have efficient asylum, migration and integration systems in place, those dealing with high migratory pressure need particular support. New tools should be available.

Regarding financial support, overall the Commission is setting aside funding (including emergency funding) of up to €50m. In support of Italy €30m have been set aside, including for border surveillance operations under the Frontex mandate. For other member states €20m have been allocated in order to improve, between others, reception capacity, processing capacity, screening and registration capacity.

Key new tools have been developed such as the ‘supported processing’ of asylum application, where member state officials will be deployed to frontline countries in order to help processing asylum applications in an efficient and effective manner. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will be at the core of this effort and a key player in order to channel the solidarity of member states to countries which are under significant pressure.

3) Fight against trafficking, smuggling and organised crime

Practical cooperation and exchange of information must be reinforced, including with third countries.

Initiatives include: – giving Europol a stronger role and resources to coordinate other EU agencies working in the field of smuggling of human beings and fight against organised crime; – reviewing of the existing EU law on human smuggling, the so-called ‘facilitators package’ by reconciling effective fight against smuggling with the need to avoid criminalising humanitarian assistance; – further supporting capacity-building programmes to address smuggling and trafficking in human beings in North Africa, key countries of origin and countries of first asylum (also through trainings for law enforcement and the judiciary).

Europol estimations indicate that in order to step up actions to fight organized crime and smuggling additional resources of up to 400.000 euro per year will be needed.

4) Regional protection, resettlement and legal ways to access Europe

Resettlement is an area where Member States could do more to ensure that those in need of protection arrive safely to the EU. In 2012, 4,930 persons were resettled to the Union by twelve member states (Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Sweden and United Kingdom). The US in the same year resettled more than 50,000 persons.

If all member states would get involved into resettlement exercises and make available a proportionate number of places, the EU would be able to resettle thousands people more from refugee camps. In order to stimulate resettling, future EU funding for 2014/2020 will be available to support additional efforts and commitments in this field. The European Commission intends to make available a lump sum up to €6,000 per resettled refugee.

The Commission is ready to explore possibilities for protected entries in the EU, which could allow non-EU nationals to access the asylum procedure from outside the EU, without embarking on difficult journeys to reach Europe. This will be further refined in the coming months, notably in the context of the discussion on the future of home affairs policies.

To enhance protection capacities in the regions from which many refugees originate, existing Regional Protection Programmes should be reinforced and expanded. In particular, a stronger Regional Protection Programme for Northern Africa (Libya, Tunisia and Egypt) will need to be compounded by the new Regional Protection and Development Programme for Syria. New RPPs should cover in the future other key countries of the Sahel region.

The EU and member states should seek to open new legal channels to access Europe: the Seasonal Workers Directive (MEMO/13/941) should be fully implemented; the Commission hopes that the co-legislators can soon agree on its proposal for a Directive making it easier and more attractive for non-EU national students, researchers and other groups to enter and stay in the EU temporarily (IP/13/275 and MEMO/13/281).

5) Actions in co-operation with third countries

The European Commission has just concluded the negotiations for the Mobility Partnership agreements with Tunisia and Azerbaijan. These agreements will soon officially add to the five already in place with Cape Verde, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Morocco. Mobility Partnerships allow to identify more channels for regular migration and to help those countries developing their capacities to offer protection in the region and to respect human rights in their territory. At the same time they allow to increase co-operation in fighting smugglers and traffickers who exploit migrants.

Diplomatic action will be targeted at achieving further results in our mobility dialogues with third countries. For instance, new Dialogues on migration, mobility and security should be launched with additional Southern Mediterranean countries, notably with Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Lebanon.

Other diplomatic and political initiatives should aim to ensure cooperation of countries of transit and of origin in order to dismantle trafficking networks, combat smuggling, and on readmission of irregular migrants.

Information campaigns could help raising awareness about the risks of irregular channels of migration and the threats posed by smugglers and traffickers, as well as informing about channels available for legal migration.

The work of the task-force

At the October JHA Council member states agreed to set up a task force led by the Commission (DG Home Affairs). Its establishment was welcomed at the October European Council.

The Task Force met on the 24 of October and 20 of November. All Member States took part to those meetings together with Frontex and other EU Agencies (European Asylum Support Office, Europol, Fundamental Rights Agency, European Maritime Safety Agency), as well as the European External Action Service.

Other entities have been consulted by the Task Force, including the Associated Countries, UNHCR, IOM, ICMPD, the Migration Policy Centre, the International Maritime Organisation, UNODC, and Interpol.

What is next?

The Commission will report to the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers on 5-6 December, for further discussion and endorsement at the December European Council.

Longer term initiatives will also be part of the reflections in the context of the Post Stockholm Programme that will look at challenges and priorities for home affairs policies in coming years.

More information

Communication on the work of the Task Force of the Mediterranean

MEMO/13/862: EU actions in the field of migration and asylum

Cecilia Malmström’s website

Follow Commissioner Malmström on Twitter

DG Home Affairs website

Follow DG Home Affairs on Twitter


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Category: A Frontpage, Disasters, European Commission, Human Rights, Immigration

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