European action plan for boat refugees unsatisfactory

21 April 2015

European action plan for boat refugees unsatisfactory

On 20th April the European Union’s Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs together with its Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers agreed a ten-point to address the crisis surrounding refugees who attempt to cross from Africa into Europe by boat. But SP Member of Parliament Sharon Gesthuizen, the party’s spokeswoman on justice, is critical of the plan. ‘The ministers are giving more money to fund operations in the Mediterranean Sea, but just what form these operations will take is unclear,’ she says. ‘I want the first priority now to be the establishment of a reliable system for saving people’s lives.’ SP colleague Euro-MP Dennis de Jong adds that what’s needed are ‘structural solutions: reception and accommodation in the region must be strengthened, but at the same time the EU member states must fulfil their obligations under the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Refugees have a right to protection.’

Foto: SP

The SP has for years been drawing attention to the unsustainable situation in the Mediterranean region. ‘Some years ago I was already advocating the establishment of European asylum centres inside the EU’s territory in countries which have to cope with large numbers of requests for asylum’ says De Jong. ‘Now people smugglers are ensuring that ever more people are undertaking the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean, with all its tragic consequences. The EU must now as quickly as possible should consult with the UN High Commission on Refugees to offer more assistance in the protection of refugees in the camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, as well as a more generous resettlement policy. An aspect of any agreement with the UNHCR could be that less vulnerable asylum seekers, even those making their applications within the EU, could be accommodated in their own region.’

‘People smugglers who exploit migrants and even put their lives in danger with their use of unseaworthy boats, are criminals and should be punished,’ says Gesthuizen. ‘So it’s right that the ministers emphasise this. At the same time we must be aware that the possibility of requesting asylum within the EU from a country outside it has been completely cut off in recent years. Only if we develop an all-round asylum policy, under which on a larger scale humanitarian visas are granted, can the pressure on illegal routes be reduced. If no such possibilities arise, I fear that people will be so desperate they will try anything and everything to get into the EU, even at the risk of their lives.’

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