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Motion for a resolution | Doc. 11905 | 06 May 2009

Dismantling fortress Europe – actively protecting the lives of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea

Signatories: Mr Hakki KESKIN, Germany ; Ms Pernille FRAHM, Denmark, UEL ; Mr Aristophanes GEORGIOU, Cyprus ; Mr John GREENWAY, United Kingdom ; Mr Andreas GROSS, Switzerland, SOC ; Ms Gultakin HAJIBAYLI, Azerbaijan, EPP/CD ; Mr Bjørn JACOBSEN, Norway ; Ms Birgen KELEŞ, Turkey, SOC ; Mr Haluk KOÇ, Turkey, SOC ; Mr Jaakko LAAKSO, Finland, UEL ; Mr Aleksei LOTMAN, Estonia, UEL ; Ms Hermine NAGHDALYAN, Armenia, ALDE ; Mr Grigore PETRENCO, Republic of Moldova ; Mr Sergey SOBKO, Russian Federation ; Ms Tineke STRIK, Netherlands, SOC ; Mr Tuğrul TÜRKEŞ, Turkey, EDG ; Ms Özlem TÜRKÖNE, Turkey, EPP/CD

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only those who have signed it.

At the end of March 2009, the European public learned of another catastrophe concerning refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Several boats carrying refugees capsized off the Libyan coast, as a result of which over 200 people drowned. The refugees came from African countries and the Middle East.

Their deaths while undertaking the extremely risky journey to Europe, fleeing desperation, persecution and poverty, is the worst case to date in what is a catastrophic trend. By 2008, over 11 000 people had died on Europe’s sealed borders and it must be assumed that there have been further victims who have simply not been documented (United Against Racism: List of 11 105 documented refugee deaths through Fortress Europe, 7 May 2008).

Against this background, it is clear that the victims on the ships from Libya are in no way isolated cases, even if this was the “greatest refugee catastrophe in the history of the EU” (Pro Asyl). Instead, it must be concluded that the border regime installed by the Mediterranean states, to a large extent at the instigation of the European Union, is primarily responsible for this humanitarian disaster. Those who use gunboats to pick up refugees at sea and then deport them help to ensure that in future even more dangerous routes are chosen for illegal entry and that even more lives are put at risk.

Given their traditional responsibility for the protection of universal human rights, the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly have a duty to discuss this deplorable situation, clearly specify responsibilities, and call urgently on the European actors concerned to find a humanitarian solution.

The Assembly calls on the Council of Europe member states to:

  • tackle the causes of people fleeing their countries, not refugees themselves. The member states of the Council of Europe should therefore substantially increase their development assistance to poor and the poorest countries, in order to develop a social infrastructure there which creates life changes and political stability. Within the framework of the World Trade Organisation and future bilateral and multilateral economic agreements, the member states of the Council of Europe should urgently work towards a fairer distribution of global wealth in order to create a structural framework enabling, in particular, the eradication of poverty in Africa.
  • halt without delay the practice of criminalising boat people in the Mediterranean Sea and depriving them of their rights. The fundamental right to physical integrity must once again be assigned the highest priority, and not sacrificed further to the obsession of sealing Europe’s borders. All European actors concerned are urgently called on to comply with the applicable international agreements, which of course include the Geneva Refugee Convention.
  • inform the public in the member states of the Council of Europe about the causal link between sealing borders and higher numbers of victims. It is only the police and military surveillance of the short sea routes between the African and European continents which forces refugees to take long, dangerous alternative routes.
  • review closely the nature of the centres for refugees who land in Europe on the Mediterranean coast and make changes if necessary. The people who reach Europe need every imaginable form of medical, logistical and financial assistance – not a stay in a detention centre which labels them criminals. The capacities of the reception centres must at last be adapted to match the number of refugees arriving.
  • review whether there are local, regional or national actors within their sphere of influence which abuse the refugee issue for xenophobic, racist campaigns. Where this is the case, member states are called on to take forceful legal and police action.
  • replace the existing regulations by a form of immigration law which reflects global mobility and cultural interaction. After decades in which the western industrialised nations have successfully pressed for global freedom of movement for goods and capital, the same freedom must also be granted to people.
  • suspend any further expansion in the power of the European border regime FRONTEX as long as the institutions of the European Union are not able to exercise even limited political, democratically legitimate oversight over security apparatuses. The member states of the Council of Europe which participate in FRONTEX as members of the European Union are called on to use their influence to either liquidate FRONTEX completely or transform it into an agency for the protection of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea and to improve its maritime rescue capabilities. The hunting of refugees using European taxes cannot be permitted to continue.
  • launch in-depth investigations of the humanitarian situation in the Mediterranean region and to make the results available to the general public. There must be an end to the impersonal way in which agencies, governments and the media in the member states of the Council of Europe deal with those who die on the external borders of Europe.