Below is a copy of a statement I cosigned, with other members of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
These are deaths of people reduced to desperation by conditions in their home countries. In many ways, they are like the people who left Ireland during the Famine here in the 1840’s, but with the added dimension of their being subjected to physical violence as well as starvation and disease.
They did not make the decision lightly to try to come to Europe, and had to undertake long and extremely dangerous overland journeys within Africa itself, before they ever get to the point of embarkation.
They are people with a strong work ethic. As a prosperous continent, Europe has a moral and legal obligation to help these refugees. The burden should be shared across all EU states,
“ Statement to Europe’s Heads of State and Government:
While migration is a complex problem that needs a comprehensive and long-term approach, the first priority for European leaders must be to stop the death toll that is a stain on the conscience of our continent. The events of recent weeks show that stopping search and rescue has not dissuaded migrants, but vastly increased the numbers of deaths. According to UNHCR, over 1,600 migrants have died in 2015 while trying to make the crossing. We call on the EU Heads of State and government to go beyond the ten point plan issued earlier this week in immediately restoring an expansive search and rescue operation in Mediterranean waters, with a level of funding and a mandate that match the humanitarian emergency that confronts us.
The wave of migration from North African shores is fuelled by turmoil and conflict across the Middle East and the Sahel, and amplified by the breakdown of state authority in Libya. The EU is rightly committed to do what it can to help reverse these developments, but there will be no easy or short-term solution.
In the meantime, the EU must accept that attempts at migration will continue on a large scale, and develop a range of measures that reflect our values and responsibilities, including:
- Legal channels for asylum seekers through facilities in countries of origin or transit, to reduce the numbers carried by illegal traffickers; allowing individuals to apply for asylum from a country other than their own.
- Set up a system of relocation and redistribution within the EU, to reduce the weight of the burden falling on a handful of member states.
- Policies to secure the accommodation of refugees in non-European countries, as long as they cannot return to their countries of origin, through the construction of safe and decent facilities in third countries.
- Develop cooperation with third countries to destroy the boats used by traffickers.
- Launch a cooperative law enforcement effort to break trafficking networks, confiscate their assets and prosecute those involved.
Measures such as these are necessary to ensure that the EU’s approach to the complex challenge of migration is sustainable, equitable and humane. However the starting point of the European response to the recent surge in migrant deaths must be a recognition that we cannot allow such terrible events to persist among those trying to reach our shores. “