Migrants and refugees arriving from

North Africa - PACE’s response


Fresh waves of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have been arriving on Europe’s southern shores in recent months, fleeing conflict in Libya or driven by the dramatic political change that has swept the Arab world. From the earliest days of the crisis, PACE was calling for European solidarity and demanding treatment for these desperate people that was humane, fair and lawful…

16 December 2011: Following a visit to Malta as part of her inquiry, Tineke Strik says that during the war in Libya it was clear the Libyan authorities were not in a position to undertake search and rescue. “There should be no gaps in the division of responsibility in practice, and yet that is exactly what seems to have happened here.”

30 November 2011: Following a parliamentary hearing in Paris as part of her inquiry, Tineke Strik says 2011 was “the deadliest year” for boat people in the Mediterranean, with 1971 individuals who perished while trying to reach European soil from North Africa, a “sad record”. She says she expects NATO and the EU to provide satellite imagery and other information relevant to her inquiry.

7 September 2011: Following a visit to Italy, Tineke Strik – who is looking into claims that 61 boat people escaping from Libya died after their appeals for rescue were, according to them, ignored – says: “The testimonies of witnesses directly involved in this incident are coherent, but we have to continue to collect more data and information on who was when and where in the area.”

23 June 2011: Following news reports that appeals for rescue have been ignored, PACE launches an inquiry into who is responsible for the more than 1,000 “boat people” thought to have perished in the Mediterranean since January 2011 while trying to reach European soil from North Africa. Dutch Senator Tineke Strik is appointed to head the inquiry.

21 June 2011: Debating the crisis for the second time, PACE issues an urgent call for Europe to share responsibility with the “frontline states” for refugees and migrants arriving on its southern shores. It also demands that “boat people” are rescued promptly when in distress and treated lawfully.

1 June 2011: At a PACE meeting in Corfu, Greek Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis admits Greece has “serious problems” with irregular migrants, but points out that his country “cannot be a store-house” for the whole of Europe.

25 May 2011: An Assembly delegation visiting the Italian island of Lampedusa says Europe must “share, not shirk, responsibility” for arrivals from North Africa. The tiny island faces a “huge challenge” but the situation is under control, it declares.

23 May 2011: A group of 34 parliamentarians requests a PACE inquiry into “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”. The Assembly’s Bureau later agrees to the request.

9 May 2011: Following reports that 61 “boat people” died when their appeals for rescue were ignored, PACE President Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu demands an inquiry. “If this grave accusation is true, it is a dark day for Europe as a whole,” he says.

14 April 2011: PACE, holding an urgent debate on the crisis, spells out for the first time that the arrival of a large number of irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers on the southern shores of Europe is the responsibility of all European states. Countries neighbouring Libya have already received far greater numbers than Europe, the resolution points out.

1 April 2011: “Each death of a boat-person is one too many,” says PACE President Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu, reacting to news that 27 irregular migrants were found drowned off the coast of Tunisia. “We can’t just plug the hole and stop this flow without dealing with the root causes,” he points out.

17 March 2011: EU states have so far “failed the test of solidarity” when it comes to helping fellow member states with the large numbers of irregular migrants and asylum seekers, a hearing of PACE’s Migration Committee is told.

16 March 2011: PACE rapporteur Jean-Charles Gardetto urges the Greek authorities to improve basic conditions for illegal migrants after a rare public statement by the Council of Europe’s Anti-Torture Committee reveals “a dramatic situation”.

2 March 2011: As reports emerge of thousands fleeing intensifying warfare in Libya, PACE President Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu is one of the first to react, calling on Europe to support humanitarian evacuations. “Europe should be at the forefront of the response to this crisis,” he says.

14 February 2011: Following the arrival by sea of thousands of Tunisians on the Italian island of Lampedusa, PACE President Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu makes his first call for solidarity: “Today it is Italy bearing the brunt. Tomorrow it could be Malta, next week it could be Greece, in a year Turkey. All of Europe is involved.”

Older relevant Assembly texts:

28 November 2008: Europe’s boat people: mixed migration flows by sea into southern Europe