‘Boat people’ from North Africa are the responsibility of all Europe, says PACE

Strasbourg, 14.04.2011 – All European states should share collectively the responsibility for dealing with the arrival of large numbers of irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers on Europe’s southern shores following events in North Africa, according to PACE.

In a resolution based on a report by Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), adopted today following an urgent debate in Strasbourg, the Assembly welcomed the efforts so far of the “frontline states” to provide humanitarian assistance in line with their international obligations, and urged other European countries to “show solidarity” with them, including by agreeing to resettle refugees and other persons with international protection needs. Malta was in a “particularly difficult situation” given its small size, high population and limited resources, the parliamentarians said.

More than 23,000 people, mostly irregular migrants fleeing for economic reasons, have so far arrived from Tunisia on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, which has a winter population of only 5,000, while over 1,000 have reached Malta from Libya, the large majority being people in need of international protection. By comparison, countries neighbouring Libya have received almost 500,000 persons fleeing from the conflict in that country.

If the current wave of arrivals in Europe increases because of an even greater exodus of persons from Libya, in particular Libyans fleeing terror from Colonel Gaddafi’s regime or an entrenched civil war, the EU should consider applying its temporary protection directive, the parliamentarians said.

Europe should also tackle the root causes of the influx, the Assembly said, by investing in the North African countries economically and by supporting democratic reform: “If Europe does too little, it risks having as neighbours countries in North Africa with populations in conflict and poverty, their youth lacking prospects, with major consequences in terms of irregular migration.”