EU in Search of Response to Refugee Crisis
OREANDA-NEWS. World Refugee Day is held every year on 20 June in tribute to the people forced to flee their country due to war, conflicts or poverty. Last year alone more than one million people fled to the EU by crossing the Mediterranean. Of these 3,3771 are reported missing or dead. Most of the refugees arriving in Europe - 38% - came from Syria. Check out our infographic to see how the situation evolved in each member state and the EU as a whole from 2011 to 2015.
The influx of irregular migrants continues to pose a challenge to Europe. According to Frontex 13,800 people had to be rescued in the central Mediterranean in the last week of May alone. The EU is working on different ways to manage migration better. The European Commission presented a new plan to address the root causes of migration in plenary on 7 June, which was debated by MEPs. Read on for an overview of upcoming initiatives.
MEPs debated on Thursday 28 April the agreement to return migrants and asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey, which Turkey and EU countries agreed on 18 March. The debate focussed on the deal's legal aspects, implementation and democratic control. Starting 8.30 CET, this page will cover the debate and be regularly updated.
Is it time for a new approach on migration? Italian S&D member Kashetu Kyenge and Maltese EPP member Roberta Metsola are calling for a comprehensive strategy including having binding targets for resettlement in each member state. MEPs debate and vote on their report on Tuesday 12 April from 8.30 CET. The two MEPs also answered questions about migration posed by our fans on Facebook. Watch the video to see what they had to say on issues such as the refugee crisis and the EU-Turkey agreement.
Interested in the refugee crisis? Then join our Facebook chat with Parliament Vice-President Sylvie Guillaume and budgets committee chair Jean Arthuis on Wednesday 16 March from 14.00 CET. The two MEPs led delegations to Turkey in February where they visited refugee camps and met political leaders and representatives from NGOs. Find out their findings and ask them about their views during our chat.
This week's EU-Turkey summit which aimed to reach a comprehensive deal on tackling the refugee crisis was debated by MEPs on Wednesday morning. During the keynote debate MEPs stressed that international asylum rules must be respected and also voiced their expectations for next week's EU summit. Some 132,000 people entered Europe by sea in the first two months of this year.
“For the benefit of refugees we need to cooperate with Turkey,” EP President Martin Schulz said following a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu on Monday 7 March. They discussed the refugee crisis, border controls, visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens as well as press freedom in Turkey, ahead of a meeting with the EU heads of state and thwe Turkish government in Brussels to discuss measures to stem the flow of migrants.
Turkey plays a crucial role in the refugee crisis: not only is it hosting more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees but also most of the one million migrants who reached the EU last year passed through the country. MEPs have called on EU countries to deliver on the €3 billion refugee facility for Turkey. As the EU searches for the best approach to tackle the crisis, two delegations from the civil liberties and budgets committees travel to Turkey this week to assess the situation on the ground.
The EU needs to overcome its paralysing fears and divisions and to manage migration and refugee flows effectively, said many MEPs in Tuesday's plenary debate with the Dutch Presidency and the Commission. Protecting the EU's external borders effectively is vital to safeguard the Schengen passport-free area, they observed. Some also called for zero tolerance of racist and violent attacks against migrants and refugees.
Martin Schulz called on member states to step up their efforts to relocate refugees from EU countries faced with a heavy influx. “European solidarity can work if we all commit to it, but not if we let a small number of countries do all the heavy lifting,” the EP President said at an informal meeting of leaders of EU countries in Malta on 12 November. The meeting took place following the Valletta summit on migration to discuss collaboration with other countries.
EP President Martin Schulz travelled today to the Greek island of Lesbos in order to visit a refugee registration and identification centre where almost 2,500 people are recorded on a daily basis. Speaking at the so-called hotspot at Moria, he said: "We must urgently reinforce efforts to complete hotspots. To be effective, however, all member states must take part in the relocation." While in Greece the President also visited Athens for the first relocation of refugees from Greece to Luxembourg.
Tackling unemployment and migration are for many Europeans the biggest challenges facing the EU, according to the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll commissioned by Parliament. Nearly two thirds think decisions on migration should be taken at the EU level rather than nationally, while eight out of ten said asylum seekers should be “better distributed among all EU member states”. However, the answers vary considerably from country to country.
MEPs urged member states to do more to tackle the refugee crisis during a debate on migration on Tuesday. The debate was on the conclusions of the informal European Council on 23 September when national governments agreed to increase funding and support to EU countries looking after the Union's external borders as well as to neighbouring countries and agencies dealing with Syrian refugees. Most MEPs also supported the European Commission proposal to address the crisis.
The EU military operation against people smugglers in the Mediterranean is about to enter its next phase. After gathering intelligence and setting up the structure, the operation will now focus on arresting traffickers and disabling smugglers vessel. The details of the operation were discussed by MEPs during a meeting of the security and defence subcommittee on 22 September.
A common response to the current refugee crisis is needed, said Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, during a meeting today with French President Fran?ois Hollande in Paris. "We should welcome refugees," Schulz stressed ahead of the extraordinary European Council on the refugee crisis taking place in Brussels on Wednesday.
An emergency proposal to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers from Italy, Greece and Hungary among EU member states was backed by Parliament on Thursday. The first temporary emergency rules for relocating an initial 40,000 over two years from Italy and Greece only were approved by Parliament on 9 September.
Parliament backed temporary emergency rules to relocate an initial total of 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU member states over two years in a vote on Wednesday. In the migration debate on Wednesday, most MEPs welcomed the Commission's new proposals outlined by Juncker in his state of the Union speech, stressing that more contributions to solidarity will be needed.
Europe should focus on saving lives when dealing with migration, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a speech at the European Parliament on 27 May. During the plenary session he called attention to the 1,800 people who drowned while crossing the Mediterranean this year: “Europe has an important role to play and a collective responsibility to act. Saving lives should be the priority.” He also discussed sustainable development and preventing violent extremism.
The EU should do everything possible to prevent further loss of life at sea, e.g. by expanding the mandate of “Triton” operation in the Mediterranean to include "search and rescue operations at EU level", says a resolution voted by Parliament on Wednesday. MEPs also call for a binding quota for distributing asylum seekers among all EU countries, bigger contributions to resettlement programmes, better cooperation with third countries and tougher measures against people smugglers.
Europe should come up with a common asylum and migration policy that is humane and realistic, Martin Schulz warned EU leaders. The EP President was speaking at the start of an extraordinary European summit dedicated to migration after hundreds of people died in one week trying to cross the Mediterranean. Schulz said: “Our immediate priority must be to save lives at sea.”
MEPs discussed the recent cases of migrants smuggled in cargo ships from Turkey to Italy and abandoned at sea by the crew and other incidents in the Mediterranean with Commissioner Avramopoulos on Tuesday evening. The new routes used by smugglers, the role of the EU border agency Frontex, legal channels of migration to the EU and a comprehensive approach to migration came under the spotlight.
The failure to date of the EU asylum system to cope with ever-rising numbers of migrant arrivals calls for a radical overhaul of the so-called Dublin rules, said Civil Liberties Committee MEPs on Wednesday. They propose establishing a central system for collecting and allocating asylum applications. The scheme, which could include a quota for each EU member state, would work on the basis of “hotspots” from which refugees would be distributed.
The real divide revealed by today’s migration challenges to the EU is between “pros”, who want to use the EU to solve these challenges, and “antis”, who want to use them to dissolve the EU, argued many MEPs in Tuesday’s debate. Most deplored EU member states’ slowness to deliver on their pledges to pay for more help for refugees, and more manpower to process them at EU borders. The €2.3 bn shortfall is the same as it was two months ago, noted Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Europe needs a binding permanent system for relocating refugees, EP President Martin Schulz told heads of state and government at the start of a European Council dedicated to migration. “European solidarity is about sharing responsibilities and leaving no-one alone,” he said. The summit on 15-16 October will also deal with the economic and monetary union, the UK’s referendum on the EU as well as Turkey and Syria.
EU heads of state and government met this Wednesday 23 September to discuss the migration crisis in the EU and, speaking at the start of the European Council, EP President Schulz said that the European Union "is built on de facto solidarity, out of necessity, not romanticism." "The European Parliament will now engage as a matter of priority with the Council on the proposals presented by President Juncker on 9 September, and present its own further proposals, " he said.
The civil liberties committee discusses on Tuesday 22 September new proposals by the European Commission to tackle the refugee crisis. Proposed measures include a permanent relocation mechanism, a common EU list of safe countries of origin and an effective return policy. Ahead of the debate, we asked Parliament’s political groups for their views on the crisis. Watch the debate live on our website on Tuesday from 9.00 CET and check out the main migration routes in the infographic.
Countries such as Italy and Greece dealing with an influx of asylum seekers should receive more support from other member states, MEPs said on a delegation visit to the Italian island of Sicily from 22 to 24 July. “Italy spends over €1 billion every year just to take care of those who make it across the Mediterranean. Italy’s borders are the EU's borders and a better management of the migratory flows is our common responsibility,” said French ALDE member Jean Arthuis, co-chair of the delegation.
Hundreds of of refugees continue to arrive at Europe's external borders every day. MEPs approved on 9 September a plan to relocate 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece to other member states. After the vote we talked to Ska Keller, a German member of the Greens/EFA group who is responsible for steering the plan through Parliament, about the refugee crisis and the relocation scheme.