AS (2016) CR 05
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Wednesday 27 January 2016 at 10 a.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates
4. Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.
5. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10.10 a.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Changes in the membership of committees
The PRESIDENT – Our next business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees. These are set out in Document Commissions (2016) 01 addendum 4.
Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?
They are agreed to.
2. Joint debate: the Mediterranean sea: a front door to irregular migration and
organised crime and migrants
The PRESIDENT – We now come to the joint debate on the reports from the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. The first is entitled “The Mediterranean sea: a front door to irregular migration”, Document 13942, and is presented by Ms Daphné Dumery. The second is entitled “Organised crime and migrants”, Document 13941, and is presented by Mr Irakli Chikovani.
We will aim to finish this item by about 1 p.m.
I call Ms Dumery, rapporteur, to present the first report. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report, and reply to the debate.
Ms DUMERY (Belgium) – Dear colleagues, more than 1 million migrants and refugees came to Europe in 2015, sparking the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. The symbolic milestone of 1 million was passed on 21 December last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. That figure takes into account all those who arrived by sea and by land, but it does not include those who got in undetected. Out of that high number, only 34 000 people made their way to Europe overland; all the others arrived by sea, and my report is devoted to that great challenge.
To understand fully the scale of the problem, we should put it into the context of previous years. During 2014, approximately 210 000 people crossed the Mediterranean, compared with only 60 000 in 2013. That sharp increase has led to an unprecedented humanitarian plight. First, there was a dramatic loss in human lives. The number of deaths was growing in proportion to the number of successful crossings until April 2015, but on 18 April a tragic shipwreck took the lives of more than 700 people, and the international community joined efforts to prevent a further loss of lives by increasing rescue operations.
That is to be commended, but we have to be clear: there is no zero-risk. That is the message I received during my meetings with the relevant authorities in Italy and at the Frontex headquarters in Warsaw. As long as people cross the sea in unseaworthy vessels in dangerous weather conditions, there will be victims, as illustrated by the tragic photo of a three-year-old boy washed up on the Turkish beach. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 3 600 migrants are reported to have died trying to make the crossing in 2015, with most of them coming from North Africa and more than 700 dying in the Aegean Sea. My colleague Mr Chikovani has prepared a report on the fight against smugglers and traffickers, and of course they bear a vast part of the responsibility for these deaths and we should eliminate their ruthless activities. But as long as there will be candidates for the illegal crossing, tragedies will occur in the sea, and the problem has to be tackled more comprehensively. I will return to that issue in a moment.
Secondly, we must deal with the issue of reception and shelter. An enormous strain has been put on the reception capacities of the first countries of arrival, particularly those of Greece, which received 850 000 people in the past year. The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons sent a delegation to one Greek island, Kos, last November, at the invitation of local authorities completely overwhelmed by the influx of migrants. In the second half of the year, this little island, whose inhabitants total 33 000, received
5 000 to 6 000 migrants every day. Needless to say, no adequate reception facilities could be assured, and we have all seen the TV images of migrants sleeping on the beach while awaiting transfer to the mainland.
The vast majority of refugees and migrants continue their journey across “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Serbia, to Hungary and then further on. The final destination countries are Germany, Austria and the Nordic countries. The situation is unfolding and is far from being solved. The number of refugees making the dangerous sea crossing shows no sign of slowing down in 2016. The weather conditions at sea over the winter months have prevented massive arrivals, but there is no doubt that as soon as the sea gets calmer, the number of arrivals will dramatically increase.
The measures undertaken so far, including enhanced co-operation with the Turkish authorities, do not seem to be very efficient. As a result, people continue arriving and exhausting the reception capacities of even the most welcoming countries. The consequences are visible to everybody: border controls are being restored in more and more countries. They are now in place between Sweden and Denmark, between Denmark and Germany, and between Germany and Austria. Countries along the western Balkan route are refusing access to migrants and refugees, with some of them building fences. Even if it was possible for all European countries to show solidarity and agree to share the burden, where would that lead? A few days ago, the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, stated that the migration crisis is putting Europe in “grave danger”. He stressed that this is not about the Schengen area but about the whole European project and integration. He said openly that Europe cannot take in all those who arrive and that it has to take urgent actions to control its external borders – otherwise “our societies will be totally destabilised.”
Those are strong words, but we cannot avoid acknowledging Mr Valls’ point of view, particularly because he is not the only one to express it openly. We cannot pretend that we do not see the increase in force of populist movements that reject totally the idea of reception and use the recent, tragic New Year events in several countries to feed rising xenophobia. Here in the Parliamentary Assembly, we are well placed to hold an open, free debate on the possible solutions for dealing with this unprecedented challenge. We should really focus on that.
My report gives an account of the situation as it was over the past year. It calls for continued mobilisation to save lives at sea – that is one of the absolute priorities, and nobody questions it – as well as for better reception conditions. Those are obvious recommendations. Beyond that, there is a question we have to try to address: what will the future bring us, and how should we try to influence it? Are we sure there is a limit to migratory flows? How many millions are we ready to accept? How do we distinguish between those who escape a real threat to their lives and those who, understandably, just look for a better life. Those are extremely difficult and painful questions, but we are here to try to address them, and I hope that in your statements you will try to answer them.
My report brings ideas that may be a point of departure for further discussions. In order to be able to distinguish between those in real need of protection and the others, we should externalise the status determination procedure and establish hotspots outside the European Union. That would allow us to take care of those in need of protection at a very early stage, without forcing them to undertake a dangerous journey across the sea. At the same time, we should protect our external borders much more efficiently and fight the smugglers, in order to discourage those who want to get into Europe to improve their life standards.
We should do much more for the countries neighbouring the conflict areas in terms of financial, material and organisational assistance. We should do much more for the countries of origin of the migrants – and of course, we should spare no effort to contribute to the political settlement in the conflict areas. Last but not least, we should find a centralised registration system for the unidentified dead so that their family members can trace them. I hope that this debate will allow us to identify some common positions, with a view to elaborating some concrete proposals. I very much look forward to your contributions.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Dumery. You have four minutes left. I now call Mr Chikovani, our rapporter, to present the second report. You, too, have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between the presentation of the report and the reply to the debate. You have the floor.
Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia) – Irregular migration into Europe, which was already problematic when this motion was tabled last year, has rocketed to unprecedented and previously unimaginable levels. The phenomenon has risen to its highest ever point and has clearly affected all European countries. People are fleeing for their lives and their futures, but some are exploiting this tragedy. Most migrants have had their journeys facilitated by people smugglers. For some, such as those who have to cross deserts, smugglers are involved almost from the outset. For others, including many of those who cross from Turkey to the Greek Aegean Islands, much of the journey may be possible unassisted. In both cases, the smugglers’ cruel and unscrupulous methods have caused great suffering and loss of life. However, migrant smuggling is not the only way in which organised crime exploits irregular migration. There are also links with labour exploitation, especially in the agricultural sector, and high-level corruption in the administration of refugee reception centres. Smugglers also commit other related offences, such as document fraud, bribery of consular and border officials and money laundering.
When migrant smuggling is committed for profit by organised crime groups, it falls within the scope of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime thanks to the special Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. Several international and European agencies are active in the fight against migrant smuggling, notably UNODC (the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), Europol, Interpol, Frontex and EUNAVFOR MED (European Union Naval Force Mediterranean), the European Union naval operation in international waters north of Libya. Within the Council of Europe, specialised bodies address particular aspects of migrant smuggling: MONEYVAL acts against money laundering; GRECO is active in the fight against corruption; and the European Committee on Crime Problems is working on ways to promote and facilitate co-operation and information-sharing between Council of Europe member States. My report supports and encourages the activities of all those bodies. The European Union has recently adopted an action plan on migrant smuggling that addresses a wide range of technical points. There was no great added value in covering the plan in detail in my report as it includes many sensible and laudable proposals and can easily be supported. The only thing about which one might have reservations is EUNAVFOR MED. However, the possible risks involved in this operation are well addressed in the United Nations Security Council resolution that permits and regulates it under international law.
Of course, there have been successes in the fight against migrant smuggling, both at a purely national level and as a result of international co-operation, and my report contains the details of some of them. What is striking, however, is their relatively small number when set against the scale of the problem and the fact that they rarely have any great impact on the main perpetrators. My report therefore seeks to make concrete, practical proposals to help national authorities work domestically, with each other and with international agencies. There is a special emphasis on reinforcing the potential contribution of the Council of Europe and its instruments and mechanisms. I stress that many of them are open to not only member States but non-member States, which could include the countries of origin and of transit in which migrant smugglers operate. It is not enough to act only at one end of the pipeline; common standards and platforms for co-operation are needed.
While preparing the report, I visited Rome, where I met representatives of the Italian authorities, which I thank, and international organisations. The committee has also held an exchange of views with experts from the UNODC and Europol, as well as the European Union representative to the Council of Europe. In addition, I have been in touch with an Italian anti-mafia prosecutor based in Sicily, who specialises in the fight against migrant smuggling. These interesting and informative contacts produced several new suggestions, which I included in the resolution, concerning specific operational measures that should be taken by national authorities to allow more effective action and better co-operation with other States and international agencies. I am ready to answer any questions and call upon the Assembly to support this resolution.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. You have seven minutes remaining.
In the debate I call first Mr Vareikis to speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania) – I am speaking on behalf of the EPP, but because the rapporteur asked the Assembly to contribute and propose something, I will share the experience of my country from 70 years ago. You probably know that at the end of the Second World War thousands of refugees from the Baltic states and central Europe fled to western Europe. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have had presidents who were former refugees or from refugee families. We have had intellectuals who came to build our democratic societies. We have our diaspora in the Senate and House of Representatives in the United States and in the parliaments of western Europe. Refugees can sometimes contribute in a positive manner.
After the Second World War, western Europe and the United States had a friendly approach to the situation, but they were strict and nothing was guaranteed. Lithuania’s former President Valdas Adamkus spent two years in a German refugee camp as a teenager. America checked people’s files carefully. Even 20 or 30 years later, if they discovered that somebody took part in the Holocaust or in Communist crimes, they would be banished. They were friendly, but they were strict. There were also economic issues many years ago, but societies were rational and offered no subsidies. Instead, there were opportunities for work and education and many former refugees took those offers up. Why can we not do that now?
I have three proposals. First, we have to be friendly towards those in need. As a European – I am not afraid to say that it is a Christian community – we can easily differentiate the migrants. Secondly, we need to be stricter on security. Do not be influenced by pictures of crying women and children; we have to be strict. Thirdly, we need to be rational about economic matters in that we should offer opportunities but not subsidies. It will work.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Strik, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Ms STRIK (Netherlands) – I congratulate the rapporteurs on their reports. Today, we face an unprecedented number of refugees worldwide. There are 60 million, almost 90% of whom live in fragile regions close to conflict zones. The Syrian war alone has produced 12 million refugees: 8 million are displaced in Syria in vulnerable circumstances and 4 million are hosted by Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Those countries cannot offer so many refugees sufficient protection and the means to build a new life. After years of waiting to return, people have started to move, and Ms Dumery’s report deals with the result of the large-scale arrival of people seeking protection in Europe.
It is crucial that we support transit countries. Is it wise to press transit countries, which already have a heavy burden, to prevent refugees from departing or to take them back out of the European Union? No – the rights of refugees must be respected, including the right to work, to go to school and to build a new life. Moreover, if we “sell” our responsibility to transit countries, that can lead to the closure of the border with war-torn countries. Due to moves by Turkey, Syrians who need to flee the violence and war are confronted with a blocked exit. That runs counter to the core principle of the refugee convention that refugees should always be allowed to flee their country if it is unsafe. If a transit country does not offer effective protection, Europe should not prevent refugees from departing from there. Our group urgently calls for solidarity outside and inside the European Union and a fair sharing of responsibility.
A binding resettlement regulation is the missing link in our common European asylum system. European norms on asylum start to apply only after refugees have reached European Union territory, but that has been made very difficult for them: think of the abolition of the issuing of visas to refugees, carrier sanctions and the fences on the land borders. Those obstacles have endangered those fleeing to Europe and made refugees dependent on smugglers, who mainly serve their own interest. Mr Chikovani’s report deals only with the need to combat smuggling. It does not stress why smugglers have such a strong position on the global market. If we take a one-sided approach, we take away a lifeline for refugees without offering safe and legal alternatives, so it is very important to consider the two reports together.
Another aspect that should be stressed much more is the distinction between people who smuggle for commercial reasons and those who do so on humanitarian grounds. The former can be approached critically; usually they do not prioritise the interests of the migrants. There is a big risk of exploitation and abuse. Humanitarian organisations should not, however, be subject to punitive sanctions, as that would lead to people no longer saving lives out of fear that they would be punished.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Eseyan, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr ESEYAN (Turkey) – First, I congratulate you again, Mr President, on becoming President.
(The speaker continued in Turkish.)
There is a major flow of migrants from Syria and the Mediterranean, and there are many problems attached to that. Obviously, you can close your borders or prevent refugees from crossing the border. Several other measures can be taken, which we must consider seriously, but the real problem is that Syria has become a country of terrorism. Four hundred thousand people have died there. That country has to be controlled, using pressure from the Council of Europe and the European Community, in order to solve the problem at its source. The measures being taken now are symptomatic of the problem. Perhaps I am wrong; I do not know. However, the Syrian Government, terrorist organisations in the Middle East and certain countries that have become countries of terrorism must be stopped and controlled. All of us must play a more positive and more responsible role in dealing with that.
It is highly probable that next year we will face two major problems, which are related and will be a threat to our civilisation and European standards and values. There will be a major influx of migrants hand in hand with an increase in the activities of terrorist organisations. We have to explain that the migrants themselves are not terrorists. That is accepted by the Council of Europe. However, in other countries, there is a tendency to regard migrants as possible terrorists. Those people are unfortunate. They are fleeing from terrorist organisations or countries that have become terrorist countries. We must understand that distinction. Turkey has accepted 2.5 million migrants. We are trying to keep them in good conditions. Turkey has spent about $9 billion to serve those people. It is a humanitarian job and we do it with great readiness.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Küçükcan, who will speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.
Mr KÜÇÜKCAN (Turkey) – Mr President, I congratulate you on your election. I thank the two rapporteurs for their insightful analysis of the important issues that we face.
We face an enormous challenge and a human tragedy. According to the United Nations, more than 180 million people are living outside the countries of their birth. As has been mentioned, more than 60 million are refugees. Here we should not only concentrate on the end results – the consequences that we face – but consider the root causes of all the problems. The Mediterranean region is at the centre of this tragedy and these demographic movements. Every day, we hear news that many people are losing their lives in the Mediterranean and the Aegean. That is a huge loss for humankind and our civilisation. Therefore, we have a responsibility to help the refugees and the asylum seekers. That is the humanitarian aspect of the problem we face.
A number of countries are doing more than others, so we should be thankful to them. Some countries are facing more challenges, including Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Italy and Lebanon. Therefore, we should try to help those countries more than others. It is our responsibility to share the burden, as European Union countries and as the Council of Europe. We need to look also at the political causes of the problem. As has been mentioned, we need to consider the security issues in the region. People are fleeing from terrorism, sometimes from State terrorism, sometimes from radical movements. That should be considered when we look at migration in the Mediterranean.
Migration, and especially forced migration, make many people vulnerable. Therefore, we see a rise in organised crime, and a lot of other such things. It is time to look at the issue more comprehensively. As long as we turn a blind eye to what is going on in the Middle East, especially Syria, we will face the migration issue for a long time to come. As of today, 2.5 million Syrians are living in Turkey, and a similar number are living in neighbouring countries. If we cannot do anything in Syria, we should not expect that those people will remain in Turkey or the other countries where they are living now. They will try to look for alternatives and to go to different places for economic reasons and reasons of safety. We should take a comprehensive view and show great solidarity to address the challenges we face.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Christodoulopoulou, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Ms CHRISTODOULOPOULOU (Greece)* – I shall speak in Greek. This issue is very important for us: 2015 was the year of the refugees; they forced Europe to see and hear them, and to protect them. They include those fleeing war, unaccompanied minors, and immigrants from African countries who risk their lives on the high seas. They seek refuge in Europe, especially western Europe.
Initially, all European citizens were impressed by the courage of many refugees, and by their will to survive. Many refugees lost their life in the Mediterranean on their journey, and that number is growing; those deaths are now almost a daily occurrence. We count these deaths in the thousands now. That is how we perceived the first wave of refugees; we all remember little Alan, whose photograph had a devastating effect on public opinion. That was in September, when our perceptions were still in their first phase – it was the period of innocence, if you will. That came to an end following the attacks in Paris in November and subsequent events.
Initially, there was a sense of guilt – these people were crossing the Mediterranean during storms, or travelling overland during heatwaves – but Europe has found itself with a million refugees, and what is our reaction? We are starting to think of cancelling the Dublin Agreement. However, the million refugees have already arrived.
We are calling for enhanced controls at borders, but it is impossible to have such controls at sea. We cannot push people back there, because it could cost lives. That point needs to be looked at carefully. It is not true that Greece does not protect its external borders; Greece simply cannot send back people who are in rickety boats – they would lose their lives. They risk absolutely everything; they even make holes in their own boats, so that they start to sink and have to be saved. To lock them up in Greece – a country where they do not want to live – and deny them rights would be criminal.
The PRESIDENT – In the debate, I first call Ms Schou.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – Once again, we have a debate on migration, and not for the last time. Until we find a good way to handle the massive influx of migrants to Europe, these debates will continue; it is our responsibility to have them. I thank the two rapporteurs for their good work. In their reports, they both address the pressing challenges and suggest concrete actions.
Standing here last September, I stated, “Every refugee shall be met with dignity.” I was quoting the commanding officer of a Norwegian ship in Operation Triton. He and his crew had by then rescued close to 7 000 people in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, I am not convinced that we members of the Council of Europe have been able to meet the refugees with dignity – quite the contrary.
Ms Dumery wisely calls on us to address the root causes of migration. That is just as important and urgent as dealing with the situation at home and on our borders. I therefore welcome the Valletta Summit, and the action plan that Heads of State from European and African countries agreed at the meeting. The plan underlines the need for long-term co-operation with the countries of origin. Norway supports all aspects of the plan, and took the initiative in suggesting holding an international conference for donors to Syria in London in February, but again, we need to act together. Our individual efforts are important, but what we can accomplish together is more important still. Delivering on this joint effort is crucial. I apologise if I repeat myself, but the need to co-operate and share responsibility cannot be stressed enough. Thank you.
Mr LE BORGN’ (France)* – This debate is important. However, I recall our having a similar debate last year. A terrible drama is unfolding, and turning the Mediterranean into a vast watery grave, and what is Europe doing? Holding debate after debate. It has failed to muster the €3 billion for Turkey to host refugees properly on its territory, and is unable to implement the plan it adopted for sharing out refugees between countries. It allows its member States, which have been doped by the structural funds, unscrupulously to refuse to take in any refugees. It is a disgrace; Europe is losing its soul.
Just last Friday, another 40 people, including 17 children, lost their lives in two shipwrecks. There comes a time when you have to say, “Enough is enough,” and that time is now. On the one hand, there is the bravery of the Greek coastguard, which is saving lives with the few resources at its disposal; on the other hand, there is the powerful trafficking Mafia – shabby individuals who greedily exploit human misery. It is business as usual for them: in spite of the storms, the cold, and all the dramas, there have never been so many children on the Balkan route.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that between the beginning of the year and the end of January, more than 37 000 people will arrive by sea on the shores of Greece and Italy, and there will have been 113 deaths by drowning. It was expected that migratory flows would tail off in 2016, but we are seeing quite the opposite. What should we do? I salute the courage of Chancellor Angela Merkel, because if Europe is a project for civilization – and it is – then vision, determination and humanity are worth far more than prudence. I thank Germany, and Sweden, too. We should do all we can to share migrants out between our countries.
Let us not forget the importance of showing solidarity with the European countries on the frontline: Greece and Italy. It is unfair to make them bear a disproportionate share of the burden – and then criticise them at the same time. Let us have a European authority to protect the union’s external borders. The ball is in our court; this is up to the countries of Europe, including the Council of Europe. Our conventions and instruments have to be used to eradicate the trafficker Mafia. We are duty bound to save lives and preserve the European dream. Thank you.
Mr HOLLIK (Hungary) – The migration crisis undoubtedly affects the lives of all European citizens today. As the report mentions, in 2015 more than 1 million people marched into our continent, in an unchecked and uncontrolled manner. We can all see the result: growing social tension in several European countries. The failure to address the other side of the crisis has caused the death of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.
We must clarify two important facts; if we do not, we cannot move forward. First, we need to differentiate refugees from economic migrants. On the basis of European Christian traditions, the protection of human life is a fundamental right. We must protect everyone whose life is in danger. However, we must add that wealth is not a basic human right. Therefore, we have the right to tell people who leave the secure refugee camp – risking their lives in the hope of finding prosperity in Europe – that they cannot enter. Secondly, there are common European rules, which we adopted jointly, and one is the Schengen system. It ensures the free movement of European Union citizens, but obliges countries with external borders to defend those common European borders. Unfortunately, that rule is violated by a number of countries. Consequently, if we cannot defend the external borders of the European Union, we are the ones dismantling Schengen.
The report states that a common European solution must be found for the migration crisis, and, after a year, there are some encouraging signs. The agreement between the European Union and Turkey may prove to be a good basis, as it guarantees the security of Syrian refugees and keeps them close to their homeland so that they can easily return when the situation there is settled. Another positive example is that the President of the European Commission, Mr Juncker, recently indicated support for a Slovenian initiative that aims to strengthen the Macedonian-Greek border. If we Europeans listen to common sense instead of following abstract ideologies, we will be able to defend the European legacy that has been left to us by our ancestors.
Ms ALLAIN (France)* – With winter upon us and Syrian refugees arriving on our territory for the past several months, we cannot fail to note that, rather than dealing with them, we are continuing to discuss their distribution, the management of flows and the creation of hotspots. However, the film “Invisibles” from Secours Populaire Français hits home hard the fact that helping refugees – people who have lost everything and have fled the barbarism of war – is a humanitarian duty. We should not only welcome them but provide support so that they can rebuild their lives in decent conditions.
After arriving in such peril, these people exiled by war in their country have to contend with an administrative maze to be granted refugee status, access the financial aid legally set out for them, and take steps with their families such as registering their children at schools. They often do not know the language spoken in the country where they have ended up.
In France, local and regional authorities are trying their best to help, as in a large number of member States. Although they are doing what they can to create an atmosphere conducive to social and human integration – something that the State on its own cannot do – neither the municipalities nor associations have the means to cope with this exceptional situation. Our country should have the courage and political will to put into place human and logistical means that match the seriousness of the situation. Should we find it normal that asylum seekers have to wait several months before being granted refugee status? Before they are granted it, it is impossible for them to rebuild their lives and plan for their future. Is it normal that those refugees have to wait several long months going through complex administrative procedures before they can be granted temporary financial aid in France, which is €340 per month? Is it normal that, once they have their status, they do not have any possibility of accommodation?
That humanitarian duty is of great importance as the Assembly debates Ms Dumery’s proposals. After identifying people who are entitled to international protection, it is important quickly to put in place agreements on relocating refugees registered in Greece, Italy and other countries in Europe, including France, by creating a system that is simple, permanent and can be rapidly implemented. Faced with this drama, let us not forget what Mr Juncker reminded us of in his speech on the State of the Union in September: “We Europeans should remember well that Europe is a continent where nearly everyone has at one time been a refugee. Our common history is marked by millions of Europeans fleeing from religious or political persecution, from war, dictatorship, or oppression”. That is our history; it is the history of the Council of Europe.
Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – Ever since the tragedy of the left-to-die boat in March 2011, this Assembly has addressed the refugee crisis without result. We were all shocked when 63 migrants lost their lives while drifting for 14 days in the middle of a NATO maritime surveillance area. We demanded accountability for those deaths, but got no answers. An overlapping jurisdiction at sea was used as an excuse to evade any responsibility. Since that, thousands have lost their lives trying to reach Europe. Fortunately, we learned our lesson and issued rescue operations with international participation. The different crews make big efforts, but people still drown. Only last Friday, 40 adults and children were picked up dead.
Rescue operations are necessary but not sufficient. We still let Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan bear the burden of the consequences of the war in Syria. We still let Greece and Italy, together with other southern European countries, bear the brunt of the challenges of housing and caring for the people who make it across the Mediterranean Sea. We still accept the underfinancing of the World Food Programme for Asia and Africa. We do not take a common responsibility for the necessary resettlement of United Nations refugees.
In a challenging situation for all of us, a common European sharing of responsibilities is non-existent. On the contrary, each country implements its own restrictions and border controls. That is both extremely dangerous and short-sighted. When all borders are closed, it will inevitably lead to the Mediterranean countries being left alone to handle the situation.
Against that background, I find the follow-up to the two reports extremely important. On the one hand, a common European response based on solidarity, responsibility and human rights standards is in the best interest of us all. On the other hand, an unresolved situation enlarges the market for migrant smugglers. In that context, a system of identifying people in need of protection through hotspots outside Europe is a very good idea. Who will and can pursue such an effort? As I see it, the only existing organisation to do that is the Council of Europe. But the two reports conclude in only two resolutions. Therefore, my appeal to the two rapporteurs and the committee is that they keep working and come back to the Assembly with a common recommendation on the issues. Only then can we urge the Committee of Ministers to commit itself – and us.
Mr HEER (Switzerland)* – I thank the rapporteurs for their report. As members of the Council of Europe, we have to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are helpless. We have spent many years talking about migration flows, but unfortunately there has been no improvement. On the contrary, the situation has deteriorated on an almost daily basis. It has become increasingly clear that the Schengen and Dublin Conventions are no longer effective, and the European Union is increasingly impotent in the face of migration flows. The German Chancellor proclaimed that refugees were welcome to come to Germany, but that led to the problem of redistributing those refugees throughout the European Union.
The socialist representative from France said that we should allow refugees to come in, but I remind her that her country was one of the first to reinstate border controls, including those between Italy and France. Anyone who drives to Strasbourg has to cross the Europa Bridge, so they will have noticed that the French police are carrying out border controls there. I have no objection to border controls – please do not misunderstand me – but we should avoid falling into the trap of hypocrisy. There has always been a lot of that in this place. We all hear our governments saying one thing but doing the opposite.
The crux of the problem is that it really is difficult to find a solution. European countries bear a great deal of responsibility for the current situation after what happened in Iraq and, more recently, Libya. Gaddafi was deemed to be a friend by some European leaders. There was no preparation for what came after that military action. There were no efforts to build up democracy, and that opened wide the door to organisations such as ISIS and its brutal methods. The fact that human traffickers are exploiting the situation is another logical outcome of what happened.
There is only one way we can bring the migration flows under control, and that is to bring about peace in Iraq, Libya and Syria. The Council of Europe is being asked to mop up the mess left by others.
Mr PREDA (Romania)* – The tragedy experienced by thousands of migrants who risked their lives – they put their lives in danger – to cross the Mediterranean has resulted in a shockwave. It goes without saying that no single European country can or should remain isolated in the face of this enormous migratory pressure.
We must find a common joint European response to migration, and that response has to combine both the domestic and the foreign polices of all States. All stakeholders must make a contribution, including countries, institutions, including the Council of Europe and other international organisations, civil society, local authorities and national partners beyond the Council of Europe.
At present, Turkey is giving shelter to more than 2 million individuals who have been displaced by the conflict in Syria. In 2015, more than 750 000 asylum seekers and economic migrants entered Europe from Turkey. The European Union has committed to strengthening its political support for Turkey; to providing substantial financial support; to accelerating the implementation of the road map on the liberalisation of the visa regime; and to giving a new impetus to the accession process.
The sharing of refugees among European States should be based on their absorption capacities, their ability to shelter and integrate refugees, their population and GDP, and the efforts they have already made to welcome asylum seekers. Their respective national unemployment rates are also a factor. We need to come up with a fair sharing of responsibilities when it comes to protecting Syrian refugees who have been displaced into Turkey.
The European States have the right to re-establish control of their frontiers. A safeguard clause in article 2.2 of the Schengen Convention authorises States provisionally to re-establish border controls under exceptional circumstances. Since the implementation of border codes in 2006, all instances of the reintroduction of border controls have involved the prevention of terrorism, criminality and reasons of security relating to international meetings or sports events. Since November 2011, such instances have been listed in the half-yearly European Commission reports on the functioning of the Schengen area. In order to find a sustainable solution to the migration crisis, appeals to reform the Schengen area should be welcomed and supported by Europeans and debated by international organisations.
Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan)* – Just a few days ago, I spoke to refugees in Turkey. I thank the people and Government of Turkey for their generous support. They said that Turkey is a gate. All of Europe and this Assembly should support Turkey – the country that accommodates the largest number of refugees – but unfortunately Turkey is being left alone in that endeavour. It has spent $8 billion, but the international community has contributed only about $450 million.
The report says that 1.9 million refugees live in Turkey, but according to official figures the number is 2.5 million. That should be corrected in the report.
Turkey does not discriminate against ethnic or religious identities. It has admitted all the refugees and provided the same support to all of them. Its approach should be seen as a model for other countries in the Council of Europe. Turkey has accepted refugees without discrimination and that is what Europe should do.
We spoke to Turkmen refugees who have come to Turkey from Iraq and Syria. They are calling on us to fight against what made them refugees; otherwise, bigger problems will emerge.
There were elections recently in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region. Some of the attitudes expressed were not very nice. We should avoid such attitudes. There are 1 million Azerbaijanis who are displaced and cannot go back to their homes. We have to fight against the reasons for such displacement; otherwise, it will be difficult to deal with the consequences.
Why are people fleeing their homes and risking their lives in the waters of the Mediterranean? They are escaping death and the lack of a future. All European countries should open their hearts to them.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Markuszower.
Mr MARKUSZOWER (Netherlands) – Today, the Assembly is again discussing the burning topic of migration. For years now, Europe has been flooded with violent, angry young Muslim men. Do you know how many times the words “Islam” or “Muslim” appear in the extensive reports of Ms Dumery and Mr Chikovani? Exactly zero. What a denial of the facts. What a deceitful display of facts and realities. What naïvety. Their ignorance is of encyclopaedic proportions.
The foundations of Europe have proven to be less solid than what was promised to my generation, and those foundations are trembling. Europe and what it stands for is imperilled because of massive immigration: waves of angry young Muslim men who want to enjoy the rights and privileges of the western world but at the same time destroy the free society that has been built here – a society based on Christian, Judaic and humanistic values. Ms Dumery and Mr Chikovani wrote the reports and want us to discuss solutions to the challenges that Europe faces because of the massive influx of immigrants, but we can begin to talk about a solution only if the respective European political leaders and the elitist establishment turn away from their suicidal delusions of multiculturalism. If Angela Merkel remains the example for other European leaders, we can expect nothing.
One of the reports says that the majority of the migrants are refugees from the Syrian civil war. That is not true. According to the United Nations, 49% are non-Syrian. As for whether or not they are refugees – well, refugees usually flee as families, yet the United Nations statistics contain a breakdown of the so-called refugees: 13% are children, 12% are women, and 70% are men. That is the demographic distribution not of fleeing refugees but of an invading army of angry young Muslim men. Europe should close its borders.
In 2015, more than 1 million migrants flooded Europe’s porous borders – Muslim migrants, mainly men who do not speak our languages or respect our respective cultures. On the contrary, they want to install the sharia in our part of the world and destroy our way of life. When will this influx of sharia knights stop? If we do not close our borders, it will not stop in the foreseeable future. According to the United Nations, in 2050 the global population will be 9 billion – an increase of more than 50% in only 40 years. Is it likely that all these extra millions of people, mainly from countries in sub-Saharan Africa and other Islamic countries, will stay in those countries? No; they, too, will want to come to Europe, which is paradise compared with Niger and Syria. The likes of the delusional Merkel will be welcoming them with flowers and food baskets. If you want to live in a continent where minorities are protected and enjoy equal rights, we must hermetically seal our borders and defend our core values vigorously.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Zech.
Mr ZECH (Germany)* - Well, already in this debate we have an Islamic army apparently attacking Europe and other people saying that there is a lack of humanism here in Europe. Really, I have heard everything in the past few minutes. As usual, the truth of the situation is far removed from all that.
The report gives centre stage to the crime of human trafficking into Europe, which has led to people in Austria being left at the side of a motorway in a lorry and dying of starvation and thirst. That is what human traffickers are doing. The people who are profiting from human misery have to be the focus of everything we do. We have to step up police efforts and sanction them in the strongest possible terms, so it is right to focus on them.
It is also right to address border controls. Our border policy is not going to spell the end of Europe; we will bring about Europe’s demise if we cannot convince people at home to believe in Europe. Alongside the huge humanitarian challenge, we have a serious problem back home. In Germany, we have done a great deal on a humanitarian level, but we are seeing people clamouring for more security. We need to ensure that we do our duty by our fellow citizens by keeping them safe, and securing our borders would be one way to restore a sense of security.
At the same time, we are well aware that that is not a solution to the problem. All we are doing in Europe is talking about the symptoms. We are firefighting and trying to tackle the symptoms. We cannot say that we can let everybody in and that they can find a home in Europe. It would be more humane to help them to stay at home by restoring the kinds of conditions in Syria that would make it possible for people to live alongside one another in peace. It would be more humane and truthful to say that the counties with war-torn areas on their borders, such as Turkey and Lebanon, should see an end to the flow of refugees. That is not what we have been saying in recent months, so I invite members of the Assembly to lobby their national parliaments so that people not only hear but actually realise that the time has come for the Council of Europe to come to the fore.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Baroness Massey.
Baroness MASSEY (United Kingdom) – I am honoured to speak in this important debate, particularly as I am a new member and this is my first contribution.
I am aware of the discussions throughout Europe about migration, not least that the Dutch presidency of the Council of Ministers has highlighted the importance of implementing the European Union agenda on migration, including relocation. In the United Kingdom Parliament, I am a member of the all-party House of Lords Select Committee on European Union Home Affairs, which recently produced a report on the European Union action plan on migrant smuggling. I hope that the Assembly will find it useful if I share some of our deliberations. Our next inquiry and report will be on unaccompanied migrant children. I shall not go into recent developments relating to Schengen – as we know, the situation is very fluid – but simply refer to some of the committee’s observations. We are, of course, concerned that recent months have seen the largest mass migration of displaced people since the Second World War, and that, in the Mediterranean area in particular, there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of smuggled migrants attempting to reach the European Union by sea. It has led to enormous loss of life and, as well as human trafficking, has included piracy to seize the assets of those smuggled.
Our committee welcomes the European Union action plan against migrant smuggling and supports law enforcement efforts to arrest migrant smugglers and disrupt their operations. However, we believe that the action plan must focus equally on how best to protect the rights and safety of the individuals who are being smuggled, because, as has been said, this is a humanitarian crisis. We took evidence from a number of individuals and organisations that are concerned about and involved in the crisis. The evidence concluded that the majority of those attempting to enter the European Union irregularly come from countries that are riven by conflict, instability and oppression, and so are prima facie refugees as defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
We consider it necessary to tackle the root causes of irregular migration, and believe that one effective way to do so would be for member States to create more safe and legal routes for refugees to enter the European Union. I am interested in how the hotspots will develop, and feel there is more to be done on that. The chair of our committee has stated on its behalf: “While the Action Plan’s law enforcement aims are fundamental, we believe that the humanitarian needs of the desperate people, who are being exploited by migrant smugglers, are as important as the current emphasis on law enforcement.”
Mr FOURNIER (France)* – The migration crisis in the Mediterranean is of great concern. It has a humanitarian dimension, because thousands of migrants have lost their lives. The crisis brings into sharp focus the issue of combating human trafficking and the smugglers who profit from the extreme vulnerability of such people. It also underlines the crucial challenge of introducing effective controls at the external borders of the Schengen area.
With that in mind, I was interested to read the report of our colleague Mr Chikovani. Even though I share their objectives, the report and the draft resolution trigger some basic questions about the operational aspects. Analysing legal loopholes, inviting States to ratify conventions or giving thought to the root causes of migration are, of course, very important, but they do not do justice to the urgency of the situation. I am convinced, however, that international co-operation is paramount in finding solutions to the crisis. Our rapporteur addresses the issue, but plays down the important role played by Operation Sophia, which the European Union launched in June 2015 to combat migrant smugglers and traffickers following the drowning of 700 migrants off the coast of the island of Lampedusa.
The main aim of the operation is to prevent the loss of lives and to carry out search and rescue operations at sea for migrants. This is an international obligation and a moral responsibility. With that in mind, I remind you that these ships have rescued roughly 7 000 migrants. The operation is planned in three different stages. First, intelligence is gathered on the organisation of networks, ships in the open seas are boarded and searched and targeted action is taken to break up smuggler networks in the areas in which they operate. Operation Sophia is using military assets, but remains a police operation. It is all about combating criminals and not different parties.
Intelligence gathering is a key task of Operation Sophia. France is the second contributor and the first when it comes to knowledge of the security situation in neighbouring countries and in Libya. Of course, we need to understand more clearly what is happening on the ground, for which closer co-operation is required with Libyan forces. With that in mind, it is important to identify which boats are being used for illegal activities and which are being used for fishing and trade, rather than destroying everything and harming the local economy.
The operation gives us the opportunity to co-operate with our neighbouring countries, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Turkey, as well as with organisations from Europe such as Frontex, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and non-governmental organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières or the Red Cross. Those are concrete actions that enable us to make headway with a view to resolving the migration crisis and saving lives.
Ms KATRIVANOU (Greece) – Organised crime and the smuggling of migrants in Turkey, Greece and all over Europe is being fed by our policy and our decision not to provide a legal and safe passage for the refugees. We can ratify many conventions against transnational organised crimes and against smuggling, but that will not work. We need to change our policy.
I have heard this discussion many times in this Assembly, as well as the discussion about how well Greece is patrolling the maritime waters. The truth is that there is no way to patrol the maritime waters. There is no way when a person is on a boat – when they are sinking, when there are babies there – to ask about visas and statuses. The only thing you can do is save them. Even Frontex admits that there is no way to patrol maritime waters, other than pushbacks. Are pushbacks what we are suggesting? We must be clear.
Do we want people to live or to die? That is the main question we must all answer. The second question is about whether, as borders are closing to the north of Greece, we want people to be trapped in Greece. Do we want to create huge camps for migrants and refugees without having the means to provide what they need and without the asylum system they need? Do we want to create a humanitarian crisis for trafficked people?
These days, there is also talk – and threats – about the expulsion of Greece from the Schengen zone. That discussion is going on while other countries are building fences and seizing immigrants’ valuables. We have to make a decision about what kind of Europe we want. First, we must stop the war in Syria. That is the main factor creating refugees. We then need to create safe passage for these people. We must create a united European asylum system and have broad numbers for relocation and resettlement from Turkey while protecting human rights. We need to safeguard the solidarity, the values and the human rights we have in Europe. That is the only realistic thing we can do. Anything else is unwise.
Mr YATIM (Morocco, Partner for Democracy)* – Europe, and the entire world, must face up to their responsibilities given the massive humanitarian disaster of the migration crisis. In 2015, about 1 million people crossed the Mediterranean to enter Europe, whereas the figure in 2014 was only 219 000. The number of people who died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015 is counted in the thousands. Rights in Europe are being attacked by these migrants and, as Angela Merkel has said, if we do not deal with this appropriately, it will change the face of Europe.
The European Union and the international community have the responsibility and duty of finding a response to this strategic humanitarian disaster. The response must be based on the principles of solidarity, responsibility and the human rights and standards enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. That must be supported with emergency measures and an appropriate strategy to manage the migration crisis. That is the only way to deal with it.
The debate should not concentrate on quotas and whether they are obligatory or optional. There must be an immediate response to the emergency that finds the appropriate humanitarian measures and implements them quickly. It must be recognised that this is a political crisis caused by unresolved regional conflicts and instability on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. It is caused by Africa being left to its own devices without any political or economic support. It is high time that the major powers of the European Union took on their responsibility to help the countries that are the sources of migrants with a need to develop socio-economically. The countries with fewer financial resources and less absorption capacity must be assisted. That is the only way to deal with this tragedy and ensure that it does not recur.
The PRESIDENT* – Mr Destexhe is not in the Chamber, so I call Mr Pozzo Di Borgo from France.
Mr POZZO DI BORGO (France)* – I would like to take advantage of our debate on this wonderful report to mention Libya. As the draft resolution states, there are many root causes that we must deal with if we are to stop irregular migration, but the situation in Libya is of paramount importance. According to the heads of Operation Sophia, whom we met in the French Senate’s defence committee, 35% of Libya’s revenue is related to migrant trafficking. As the Bulgarian President said, migrant trafficking is more profitable than drug trafficking.
I would like to draw Assembly members’ attention to the gravely worrying developments in Libya, which could further exacerbate the migration crisis. The situation in Libya is disastrous. Its economy is in the doldrums, and for a year and a half it has had to contend with a serious political crisis. Since the summer of 2014, it has had two parliaments and governments: the Tobruk authority, which is recognised by the international community and is dominated by a coalition of liberals and nationalists; and the General National Congress, which meets in Tripoli and contains Islamists. Both camps are tied to countless militias. Last October, following several long months of negotiations, the different Libyan parties reached an agreement under the auspices of the United Nations on forming a national unity government. The situation is uncertain, however, and the Tobruk authority has refused the agreement.
We need to take action. The disintegration of Libya benefits Daesh, which wants to take the country backwards. The dangers are growing. Although Daesh suffered setbacks in Raqqa in Syria as a result of airstrikes, it has a solid base in Sirte – a coastal town that was a former stronghold of Colonel Gaddafi – and controls 200 to 250 km around it. It controls a third of Libya.
Libya has a number of assets for Daesh. It is in the south of Europe, it has significant oil resources and it is on the Sahara desert, where there are many terrorist issues. Daesh is using its Libyan bastion to advance. The real prospects for expansion to the east of the country are illustrated by the recent deadly attacks. It is also gaining territory in the south. It is important that we control migratory routes. Let me remind you that the attacks of 13 November were committed by people who made the most of human trafficking.
Mr MADISON (Estonia) – The immigration crisis that escalated in the Mediterranean last year is perhaps the single worst crisis for Europe since the Second World War. It affects not only Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece, but the transit and destination countries, such as Germany, Finland, Sweden and others. Although the rapporteur, Ms Dumery, admitted that about 1 million immigrants arrived in Europe last year, and that actual refugees were in a minority among them, the truth is that no one knows the real number. It is estimated that there are as many as 1.5 million, and the United Nations estimates that the number of migrants who will arrive in Europe may reach 3 million. This is the worst crisis that the European Union has faced since its foundation. This year, its future will be decided.
The rapporteur talked about the migrants’ backgrounds. It is true that, in the first quarter of 2015, only 20% to 25% were actual refugees from Syria. Last September, I visited the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which is only 20 km from the Syrian border. I saw the true refugees, including women and children. On the Mediterranean, however, most of them are plain immigrants. To let them freely into Europe would be a crime against our own people and nations. Italy and Greece allow most of the migrants to walk unregistered to the Balkan countries and central Europe. We saw the results clearly on new year’s eve in Cologne and other German towns, where massive migrant hordes violated, raped and robbed German women. Similar incidents were confirmed in Sweden and Finland. On 9 December, Afghan migrants attempted to rape a French woman in the Paris Metro. The police tried to cover up the incident, but it was revealed after the attacks in Cologne.
The rapporteur supports the migration quotas and the relocation of migrants, but that will only accelerate the break-up of the European Union. Slovakia, Hungary and Poland have taken that decision to court. That is the right thing to do: every sovereign State must control its territory. No one has the right to force independent States to accept migrants. The Dublin Regulation does not work because not every country follows it. It is therefore inevitable that the Schengen area will vanish and border controls will be restored. First, we have to ensure that our external borders are protected. Secondly, we have to restore controls in Europe and send back every illegal migrant. Thirdly, we should help the actual refugees in camps in Jordan and Lebanon until the conflict stops. If we do not do those things, what happened in Cologne will become a part of everyday life for all Europeans.
The PRESIDENT – I call Ms Kyriakidou from Cyprus on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Ms KYRIAKIDOU (Cyprus) – Although this subject has been debated repeatedly in this Assembly over the past couple of years and concerted action has been taken at the European level to mitigate the effects of the migration and refugee crisis, people are still drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. The war is raging in Syria; sectarian violence has spread throughout the whole region; people from the African continent are still fleeing poverty, disease and civil war; and Europeans are still at threat from terrorism. Although that analysis is pessimistic, it is the reality.
Let us not forget that we are discussing people, their lives, human rights and the prospect of a better future. Discussion of migration and the refugee crisis too often focuses on strategic management procedures and how better to co-ordinate bureaucratic mechanisms and processes, but we are talking about human lives, suffering, lost relatives, death and the inability of our societies to address effectively and holistically the massive exodus of people.
We strive in this Assembly to address the issue from a human rights perspective. As the rapporteur correctly stated, our approach should be based on solidarity, equitable burden sharing and responsibility, and there should be an ongoing financial commitment. The human rights of the migrant populations must be upheld whenever they come into contact with authorities, whether it is at entry and registration points, during assessment processes or when they are transferred to safety and shelter. Family reunification should be granted to all persons qualifying for international protection.
Ms Dumery’s call for the creation of a comprehensive database of the lives lost in the Mediterranean is an excellent one, because it deals precisely with a humanitarian issue that will provide information and relief to people who are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones. Similarly, we must also support the establishment of hotspots outside Europe, because that could significantly reduce the number of tragic accidents in the Mediterranean. Progressive national legislation and procedures should be set up in that context.
For how long, dear colleagues, can we fall back on the founding principles of this Organisation, when the governments that we elect renege on those very principles in the foreign policy choices that they pursue in the region? As Albert Einstein cleverly said some time ago, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”
Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey)* – This year, the Médicis literary prize for the best foreign book was awarded to a Turkish writer for “Daha”, which means “more”. “Daha” is often the only word of Turkish that poor Afghan, Pakistani or Syrian migrants know. They are exhausted by weeks of wandering, and it is useful for them to ask their traffickers for a bit more water or a bit more to eat. Hakan Günday’s book is a novel, not reportage, but when reading the book, and your report, Madam Rapporteur, I was struck by the realism of the descriptions, and by the similarities between the two.
The author has said that the idea came to him when he read a press article. It was just a few lines in a newspaper that reported on the arrest in a small Turkish town on the Aegean Sea of a gang of crooks who were manufacturing bogus life jackets that were stuffed with wood shavings and would not float. Those life jackets were destined to be sold to families of illegal migrants who were trying to reach a Greek island on makeshift rafts. Of course, the same drama could have unfolded in the Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla, Sicily, or off the Horn of Africa.
The report emphasises the scale of the problem. The number of migrants who have come to Europe has risen to 2 million – do not forget that my country, Turkey, has alone hosted 2.5 million migrants. Is that not enough? An Ad hoc committee of this Assembly visited the refugee camps, and our former President, Anne Brasseur, and colleagues, have witnessed the efforts that Turkey is making to keep the migrants alive. We must also try to facilitate their access to the labour market, to education and to health services as far as we can. We need increased international co-operation, because notwithstanding efforts by national authorities, it is difficult to pursue the traffickers. We must also tackle the root causes of forced migration, which obliges the most desperate people to jeopardise their lives and those of their families. The rapporteur is right to draw a distinction between human trafficking and migrant smuggling, although that does not mean that migrants are not exposed to abuses.
Mr DI STEFANO (Italy)* – This important report addresses the question of illegal immigration, but I wish to ask all those who have spoken so far this morning to tell the Assembly exactly who is a regular migrant? In reality, it is not anybody – there are no regular channels for economic migrants, and no guarantees even as to whether those people are refugees or not, because we do not have mutual recognition agreements with the countries of origin. That is why people end up coming on makeshift boats. This is an enormous problem, and the management of the refugee problem has been subject to too much politicking, rather than practical solutions.
We find ourselves talking about European values, but what are they? Are they Colin Powell telling us to bomb Iraq, or us bombing Libya on our own? All those things have triggered migratory flows. Between 2009 and 2016, the number of refugees landing in Italy alone has increased from 9 000 to 160 000, and during that period we had five major wars, including in Afghanistan. We continue to pursue these crazy wars that are spreading violence and ideas of occupation in the minds of people such as those terrorists who are now attacking Europe. There are two important ideas to consider. First, we must stop wars in which we think we are exporting democracy, and secondly we must stop the exploitation by multinationals – two principal causes of immigration.
How do we maintain our European values? First, we need genuine integration. Those citizens and migrants who come to live in Europe should have a genuine sense of being European. If we are to enable them to integrate, we must provide compulsory language courses to enable them to understand the culture of the country in which they have arrived. We must also recognise that people come from different cultures – the overwhelming majority of these refugees come from four or five countries, and we should also encourage people to listen to the point of view of migrants.
We must also address the problem of human traffickers. What have we done so far? In a recent report I read evidence from a human trafficker who spoke about what is happening off the coast of Libya. Why are we unable to tackle the problem of human traffickers? Perhaps it is because we have not managed to conclude an agreement with the countries of origin to tackle the problem of those who are running the boats. Another problem is illegal migration. Our failure to talk to migrants means that we are not able to prosecute those who are running the boats. There is a genuine fear, and if we are to find genuine solutions, that would bring an end to the enormous political campaign that is under way in Europe both for and against the migrants.
(Ms Mateu, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)
Mr ŠIRCELJ (Slovenia) – Since our last debate, the problem of migration has expanded. Europe is faced with difficulties and frustrations with a large influx of refugees and migrants from areas that have been affected by war, conflict and terrorism for several years. Today we are discussing two reports that show the real picture of migration at the end of 2015. According to some predictions, more than 50 million people are fleeing war and conflicts across the world, and many more are looking for a better future in Europe. However, Europe cannot solve the migration crisis alone. We need the co-operation of our partners worldwide.
First, Europe must ensure greater coherence in the European Union’s internal and external policies, and it must guard and protect its external borders by stepping up border controls on both land and sea. Secondly, the European Commission and member States must make immediate and full use of the Schengen evaluation mechanism, and step up co-operation with Turkey to implement the migration action plan. Thirdly, the European Commission must enlarge the mandate of Frontex, and establish a European coastguard. Fourthly, all member States must make the fight against terrorism as well as against human trafficking their highest priority.
Member States must fully implement the minimum standards of the asylum acquis, and complete the reform of the European asylum system. Therefore the European Commission must propose a new European asylum system under which asylum must be requested and examined at the EU’s external borders, or preferably outside the European Union. The right to seek asylum must be respected for those in need of protection.
I am not under the illusion that the proposals under discussion can be easily implemented, but I am convinced that urgent action needs to be taken, because solving the migration crisis is the key to the future existence of a united Europe.
Ms SOTNYK (Ukraine) – First, I thank the rapporteurs for their good work on nailing one of the most acute problems in Europe today. If we view the whole picture of this problem, which is growing every day, we will ask ourselves: will the suggested mechanisms resolve the challenge that illegal migration poses? Perhaps we should do more; perhaps we should find the root causes of this unprecedented growth of illegal migration.
This discussion is not an easy one. It touches on one of the most precious human values – being a good neighbour and giving help to people who really need it – but it also deals with the principle of the safety and well-being of native Europeans. Can you imagine closing your door to a stranger who is being chased by a pack of bloodthirsty wolves? How can we stand aside and not take action when someone is calling for help? The worst thing is to realise that, from that very moment, our indifference becomes our fault. Yet, the security system and resources of Europe are limited, and the patience of people hosting strangers in their motherland is even more limited. These are strangers who have crashed in, climbing over the fence to save their lives. Our ultimate solution lies in taking a severe stand against the bloodthirsty wolves that trapped the stranger in the first place.
The problem of migration is a side-effect of the hybrid war led by certain States that are consistently destabilising the situation at the points of conflict, forcing people to leave their homes in order to save their lives. We must see and accept this challenge clearly and openly; we must not hide behind political decisions and individual punishments, which are hardly effective and make no difference to the overall problem. The efforts of all States must be devoted to stopping the conflict in the hotspots and to bringing back peace and stability there. Most refugees truly want to live in their motherland and to come back to their homes, and it is in Europe’s interest to ensure the safe return of refugees to their homes – but with a peaceful sky above their heads.
Mr DOKLE (Albania)* – Years ago, in flight from a serious situation in my country, 28 people lost their lives in the Adriatic Sea, and the Italian Prime Minister at the time, Romano Prodi, said that it was our duty to transform this watery grave into a bridgehead for friendship, communication, prosperity and justice. That duty is still incumbent on our governments and our parliaments, as well as on our Parliamentary Assembly. We have to save lives, and that means saving our humanity, our dignity and our justice.
Unfortunately, 2015 was one of the most disastrous years for Europe in a long time. In the face of hundreds of thousands of human beings asking for assistance, most of them fleeing civil wars, our governments, particularly those in the European Union and the wealthiest among them, are taking in far fewer people than they could. Some 3 770 lives were lost in 2015, and in the first week of 2016 a further 30 bodies were washed up by the sea. The Mediterranean remains red with the blood of the victims, and this tragic situation is set to deteriorate further in 2016. As we have not tackled the root causes of the flows of refugees, immigration will increase.
Some governments do not hesitate to link this human tragedy with the terrorist threat. We should not forget that Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi and other refugees are the principal victims of terrorism, although I do not deny the threat. When reading the press, we see that one European Union country has taken in just 18 refugees, whereas others, such as Italy and Greece, have taken in many thousands. My country took in 1 million refugees during the Kosovo war in 1999. That shows why we must take urgent action to tackle poverty and fight social injustice, in order to guarantee peace and security.
Mr SALLES (France)* – I am a convinced European, and I am still convinced that freedom of movement within the Union should not be restricted. However, in the current circumstances it goes without saying that a Europe whose internal borders are open is viable only if its external borders are safeguarded. There is no question of transforming Europe into a fortress, even though some nationalists are calling for the destruction of our common house, with a return to the principle of “everyone for himself”. When confronted with that hate speech, we must respond by improving the existing systems and strengthening them. Europe must do more and it must do better. The external borders cannot remain solely the responsibility of the member State concerned; these are common borders and they therefore require common action.
I have been to Lampedusa. I am aware that even in this Chamber many people have criticised our Italian friends, but that is not fair at all. After all, Italy devoted three times more resources to its Mare Nostrum operation than those that are devoted to Operation Triton. Similarly, we must be realistic about the fact that our Greek friends do not have the resources required to deal with the constant influx of refugees. Some are wondering today whether they can be kept in the Schengen area, given that it has become almost impossible to control the Greco-Turkish maritime border, but who could manage such an influx of migrants all alone? That is why strengthening the Frontex mandate and creating a common coast and border guard force that could intervene rapidly at the external borders of the Union has become indispensable – it is a natural corollary of the Schengen system. In this framework, we hope very much for the rapid adoption of the border package submitted by the European Commission on 15 December, which provides for targeted changes in the Schengen frontier border code, as well as the setting up of a European Border and Coast Guard Agency with more competence to evaluate the external borders and intervene. We need to be careful here. In the Mediterranean, and contrary to previous operations, we need to ensure that we have more European solidarity, so that the management of this entry gate will not be left only in the hands of the countries on the border. Another aspect of the strengthening of the European policy on controls will be put in place through the “smart borders” package, which the Commission is to submit in March next. It seeks to allow for automated and systematic control at the external borders of the European Union.
On combating traffickers, the European naval operation, EUNAVFOR MED, and its Operation Sophia should make it possible to accomplish all the missions provided for it in its mandate, particularly the incapacitation of boats before they are used by traffickers. However, the domestic Libyan situation is a real obstacle to that. The need to strengthen the control of external borders is nothing compared with the need to welcome persecuted persons who are fleeing the Daesh barbarism, but our citizens must be reassured on the reliability of borders.
Ms OHLSSON (Sweden) – When discussing the reports, it is important that we do not forget that the safety and fundamental rights of migrating children are at stake. There are more than 60 million refugees worldwide and half of them are children, who are particularly vulnerable and at risk of violence, abuse, exploitation, trauma and even death. They need specific protection measures, to which all European countries have agreed by ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
During 2015, the number of children coming to Europe to seek international protection increased massively. In 2014, 144 550 children applied for asylum in European Union member States. In 2015, at least 337 000 children were registered as asylum seekers, amounting to 29% of all asylum seekers. The most significant increase started in June 2015 when refugees changed their main irregular route to Europe from between northern Africa and Italy to a route from Turkey to Greece. In June, 16% of all migrants crossing the Mediterranean were children. By December, the proportion had increased to 35%.
Children on the move face many safety risks and concerns, which become even more severe when Europe is not proving able to handle the influx of migrants from a children’s rights perspective. Due to the lack of legal opportunities to enter the European Union to apply for asylum, almost all children use irregular routes, facilitated by smugglers, to reach Europe. The sea journey is dangerous for children. Some 30% of migrants who drown are children. During the winter, children arrive wet and cold, and babies and small children are particularly vulnerable. Some get separated from their parents during the journey, mainly at chaotic border controls. Some are at risk of sexual abuse and violence. Unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable and face an increased risk of becoming victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.
It is important that humanitarian aid has a children’s rights perspective. We can do this together and make things better for children. We should improve standards where they are going to live and also ensure that there is access to education for all.
The PRESIDENT* – I do not see Mr Korodi, so I call Ms Zampa.
Ms ZAMPA (Italy)* – We are debating the phenomenon of mass migration into Europe. I thank my colleague Carina Ohlsson, who has just spoken, for her speech because we are trying to come to terms with the scale of the situation. Many young people are coming into Europe, but it is just one aspect of the problem that we need to remedy. Foreign minors are leaving their home countries unaccompanied. Many of them are aged between 10 and 17, but the majority are between 16 and 17. Such children are particularly vulnerable, because they do not have their parents or other family members to accompany them on their journey. Most of them end up in Greece or Italy, using land or sea routes to get there. Above and beyond the issue of unaccompanied minors, there are newborns, infants and other young people accompanied by their parents. By dint of their age, such children are extremely vulnerable. I have seen them with my own eyes. I saw them arriving on foot in Hungary a few months ago. Just imagine what it must be like today in these cold temperatures. Just think of what their lives must be like. They need to be taken in and hosted in a different way.
Those are just two aspects of the problem to which we must pay particularly close attention. Europe should make immediate decisions about how it receives refugees. It should go beyond simply making financial resources available. It needs to open up humanitarian corridors. We must ensure that children are no longer forced to jeopardise their lives by getting here by sea. We need to earmark more resources for reception facilities across the European Union for unaccompanied minors. It is scarcely imaginable that they can be left herded into a few areas of Europe. We need solidarity in Europe, but the report made little reference to how to deal with the issue.
Ms KAVVADIA (Greece)* – Europe is facing its most serious crisis since the Second World War, and the truth is that we are also dealing with its greatest failure. Can we still talk about European values when tens of thousands of lives are being lost in the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea? Greece is at the forefront of the crisis and we are proud of how we have reacted while in the middle of the most serious economic crisis in our history. We are proud of our search and rescue operations at sea. We are proud of being able to live up to European values.
Europe has not yet come up with a strong response to the problem and has almost been holding back. We hear open racist rhetoric in some European countries. We are being criticised and told that we are not living up to expectations, but decisions about how to relocate people are not being applied. The European Union’s €3 billion agreement with Turkey has not been efficient, and the Schengen area is under threat. Is freedom of movement still valid? Border checks have been introduced and barriers are being erected. We are being asked to protect our borders and we are ostracised if we do not, but what is the best way of protecting them? What can Greece do to secure its borders apart from carrying out the moral duty of saving lives? How can we send people back – refoulement – when an icy sea awaits them? We are talking about rubber dinghies or makeshift boats carrying women and children.
We have to be realistic. Some conservatives feel that there are not enough victims who have lost their lives at sea, that perhaps the policy does not have enough of a chilling effect and that perhaps we need more fatalities. Greece cannot and will not call for more deaths. We need to make a final effort to save Europe and its raison d’être. Perhaps we need to come up with a once-and-for-all solution to the problem. Otherwise, we will be judged severely by history.
Mr AMEUR (Morocco, Partner for Democracy)* – Europe finds itself facing an unprecedented inflow of refugees. That is part of a wave of suffering that is leading to a growing number of victims at the doors of the European Union.
Many of these people come from sub-Saharan Africa and Libya. Young people and whole families are fleeing war and misery. Before they reach the coasts of the Mediterranean, these migrants are easy prey for the new slave drivers, the human traffickers, the criminals. They also face the atrocities being committed by Islamic State.
We have not seen such movements of population since the Second World War. They are primarily the result of two factors: first, the overturning of a regional regime; and, secondly, the current state of countries such as Libya, Iraq and Syria, combined with extreme poverty, to which many regions are prey.
We have many priorities now, including the fight against trafficking and the terrorist networks. That battle must be waged on several fronts. On the humanitarian front, we must generate greater solidarity to help those who are suffering. We must welcome them in a dignified way. At the same time we must be unstinting in our efforts to dismantle the criminal networks. We must step up international co-operation.
At the political level, we urgently need new global policies based on solidarity. We must also move from the somewhat hypocritical attitude where certain businesses want cheap immigrant labour. Voters are rejecting the idea of immigrants. We must replace that with a more credible approach. We must overcome the binary vision among the public.
Immigration can be seen as a disaster or an opportunity, depending on how what is at stake is explained to people. Lots of people are calling for a more intelligent and humanitarian approach to dealing with the mass arrival of refugees, who are often highly qualified. Europe should accept the fact that traditionally it has been a land of immigration.
At the same time, at a strategic level, Europe must try to defuse the crisis in the region that is leading to the refugee exodus. Europe should promote economic, social and human rights developments in those regions. Only by adopting such a global, multi-faceted approach can we help to eliminate the conflicts, while at the same time ensuring that we have sustainable mobility.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call Ms Johnsen.
Ms JOHNSEN (Norway) – I thank the rapporteurs, especially Ms Dumery, for the reports. Her report highlights the need for a common European response to the refugee crisis. It also calls on the global community to have a joint response and to take joint action. One million refugees arrived on the European shores of the Mediterranean in 2015. In 2013 the number was 60 000. So the crisis has been escalating and will continue to do so.
The high number is largely the result of the war and conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. People flee from the implications of war – who would not? – the destroyed infrastructure and hospitals and the bombed-out schools. Hunger and the lack of clean water and housing make people desperate. Many people risk their lives and embark on a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean hoping to get to Europe. Estimates indicate that more than 3 700 people died in the Mediterranean in 2015. The question is, how can we stop these crossings? How can we stop and punish the clinical traffickers?
We know that 7 million people in Syria are in urgent need of help. Their condition is steadily worsening. Migrants will continue to come. Like my colleague from Sweden, my concern is that over 1 million refugee children do not receive any education and are in danger of becoming illiterate. They are also traumatised by war. One can only imagine how that terrible experience will affect their lives. We will have a lost generation.
Humanitarian aid makes the difference between life and death for refugees. Emergency response is important, but it is also necessary to have long-term support to contribute to sustainable development. In addition, we need further co-operation with countries of origin and transit countries. We must find a mechanism for relocation. The idea of setting up hotspots outside Europe from where one can seek asylum should be explored further, and the United Nations must take more of a role in solving the conflict. Europe cannot tackle this alone. While we talk, anxiety rises in Europe. We see the rise of right-wing organisations and growing xenophobia.
Countries close their borders in an attempt to control the situation, and new regulations are introduced to make it less attractive for refugees to seek asylum. The situation can only be solved politically. But the debate cannot be limited to discussing quotas for refugees in Europe. The aim must be to close the Mediterranean to dangerous boat crossings.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call Ms Dobešová.
Ms DOBEŠOVÁ (Czech Republic) – All of us know that we are facing an unprecedented migration crisis in Europe, which could change our continent for ever. After the refugee attack in Cologne against women, the will in the Czech Republic to accept refugees from the Middle East and the Maghreb is very low. The situation could be worse. For example, Swedish police have warned that Stockholm’s main train station has become unsafe after being “taken over” by dozens of Moroccan street children.
We have taken a number of asylum seekers and we keep them under review, but the most important thing is to bring peace and stability to the heart of the problem, to the Middle East and the Maghreb. I do not think the answer is simply to take more and more refugees. The flow of migrants must be controlled before they reach the European border and only real refugees should be accepted. The internal Schengen borders must be monitored. If we are unable to do it, the European Union could face collapse in a short time.
It is naive to think that the implementation of agreements on the relocation of refugees from Greece and Italy to other European countries and putting in place a permanent relocation mechanism will solve the situation. People in the Czech Republic have great concerns following the terrorist attack in France and the attacks on women in the European Union and a majority of our citizens are against accepting these migrants. I think that that mood is starting to spread all over Europe.
There is another solution: we can expand the provision of so-called blue cards for skilled migrants, enabling them to work and live in any country in the European Union. With that tool, we can prevent unskilled people undertaking the dangerous journey to Europe only to be disappointed and sent back. Our primary responsibility is to make sure that our citizens feel safe, so we cannot invite all migrants from all over the world. If we do not take this action, Europe will undergo an identity crisis.
There is a deep gap between what people think and what political élites and the media tell them. We will learn the real views of European citizens in our next elections, but by then it could be too late. Europe is not unlimited. Thank you for your attention.
Ms KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR (Turkey)* – I thank the rapporteur for the report, “The Mediterranean Sea: a front door to irregular migration”. Paragraph 4 of the draft resolution states that Turkey has suffered a great economic burden, but migrants’ suffering is not just economic. Their children do not have access to education; women suffer harassment; migrants have to pay high rents; they work for low wages and in irregular labour markets; and Turkey does not recognise their status as migrants.
Every day, people living in inhumane conditions risk their life to reach European countries. The death of children hurts us all, but unfortunately nobody is taking enough responsibility. This problem is not just Turkey’s. In the European Union, there is an economic profitability problem, which is causing a power struggle in the Middle East. Migrants are becoming the subject of bargaining between countries. Everyone deserves human rights, equality and justice, and no one’s life should be subject to bargaining between governments. If we experience similar problems in Turkey, perhaps Europe will come across Kurdish migrants in the near future.
As I say, all migrants are equal citizens of the world, and we have to open our doors to them in an equitable manner. Thank you for your attention.
Ms DURANTON (France)* – Daphné Dumery’s report is on irregular migration in the Mediterranean – a difficult subject. Europe’s ability to solve the problem will be crucial to the future of the continent. The human consequences of this irregular migration are disastrous. During the first four months of 2015, some 2 500 people drowned or suffocated in rickety, makeshift boats. This migration is often the result of genuine disaster and misery, often related to wars raging in East Africa and the Middle East. Yet controlling immigration is of crucial importance to the future of Europe. More than 1 million people arrived on our continent in 2015, and that is probably not the end of the story.
Does Europe have the resources required to deal with the arrival of such a very large number of people? Certainly not, for various reasons. Xenophobia is intensifying every day, and it threatens to bring populist parties to power. We lack the financial resources and jobs to ensure the integration of all these migrants. In 2015, for example, 79 130 asylum requests were submitted in France; that is 22% more than in 2014.
The right to asylum must be based on a number of conditions that must be respected. If we ensure that, we can stay true to our values while combating irregular migration. We need to be able to distinguish between those who have a right to asylum and economic migrants, and only the former should be welcomed in Europe. We must create hotspots in countries of arrival to allow for the better management of the flow of migrants. Similarly, we must review the Dublin Convention, which is putting excessive pressure on Italy and Greece. Given the extreme urgency of the situation, we must go further: migration cannot be controlled unless we effectively combat the Mafia networks that organise the transfer of migrants to Europe. Strengthening Frontex must be a priority.
The French Senate recently held a hearing with the deputy commander of Operation Sophia. He told us that effective combating of the traffickers must involve action in the field, and that of course requires the agreement and co-operation of migrants’ countries of departure, which, let us not forget, are sovereign States. That applies to Libya, a significant country of transit for migrants from East Africa. The European Union has reached an agreement with Turkey to allow for the better welcoming of migrants on Turkish soil, and better police co-operation to combat traffickers. The effective and sincere implementation of the agreement will really test whether the two parties can co-operate effectively. Let us hope that the results will be positive.
Ms DALLOZ (France)* – Irregular migration across the Mediterranean Sea poses a considerable challenge to Europe. I thank our colleague Daphné Dumery for her report on the subject. Reconciling the fight against the Mafia networks that organise these irregular flows with the need to uphold human rights is by no means straightforward. Saving migrants at sea is an international obligation and a moral responsibility, but we need to consider the traffickers, who these days are content to organise the part of the crossing that is in the territorial waters of the departure country – particularly Libyan territorial waters – and to leave others to save the migrants’ lives. This dilemma will be solved only if there is co-operation between both Mediterranean parties, and only with the agreement of the country of departure.
Two countries are on the frontline: Libya and Turkey. A difficult political transition in Libya is complicating co-operation with that country. It is estimated that a third of its revenue comes from irregular migration. As for Turkey, the negotiations under way with the European Union ought to make closer co-operation possible, though we will have to be careful about the deployment of the €3 billion earmarked for this purpose in December.
Some migrants are refugees and so will be entitled to asylum, whereas others are not. Setting up hotspots at which we register migrants coming into Europe ought to make it easier for us to identify those who are eligible for asylum, but, again, that can be done only if we have co-operation between European countries. Again, efforts are proceeding at a snail’s pace, and of the 21 hotspots planned, only two are operational. Italy and Greece absolutely have to be helped.
Everything is too slow, so I understand the anger of those countries that are the port of first entry. Many European countries are talking and negotiating while entire families are dying in the Mediterranean, or are crammed into refugee camps and overcrowded detention centres with undignified living conditions. That is why these events are a threat to our societies. If we do not have a balanced response to the crisis across Europe, we will simply see an increase in the problems.
The PRESIDENT* – The next speaker is Ms Kramar from Slovenia, but she is not in the Chamber, so I call Mr Nikoloski from “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Apparently he is not in the Chamber either, so I call Ms Mitchell from Ireland.
Ms MITCHELL (Ireland) – All European countries, in and outside the European Union, must ruthlessly exploit to the limit of the law every convention, protocol and domestic law available to them to pursue, arrest and punish those who facilitate for reward the smuggling of desperate migrants. However, no matter how many arrests we have, it will not end migration. People will risk everything and pay anything while there is the strong incentive of getting to a safer and wealthier Europe.
We have been talking about what we call the refugee crisis for some years, and all that has changed is that the crisis has deepened. More people are travelling. More people are dying. Across Europe, fear and resentment of migrants is widespread. The Dublin Regulation is increasingly ignored, Schengen has all but collapsed, and the concept of European Union solidarity has proved shallow. It took months to agree the relocation and resettlement of a very limited number of refugees and, even on that paltry number, little progress has been made in receiving them. The money promised to Turkey has not materialised, and there has been little progress in creating the promised hotspots and even less in sharing responsibility for policing our external borders.
No greater crisis faces European countries and our governments must start to be resolute, focused and determined in delivering the agreed solutions, even if they are only partial. Clearly, we cannot take into Europe everybody who wants to come. We can help fund the cost of providing asylum in countries close to the problem such as Turkey and Lebanon, so that they are not overwhelmed. Of course we must accept our own responsibilities under the Geneva Convention, and share the burden of those responsibilities across Europe. Most importantly, we must start to be serious about the management and security of our external borders. That also means that, if migrants fail the asylum process, they must be promptly repatriated. It may seem harsh to insist on that, but we must if we are to meet our obligations to those who genuinely need our protection.
Peace is the only solution to the Syrian migration problem. I call on all countries, particularly those that are players in the Syrian conflict, to bring all their influence to bear on stabilising the area so that people can return to their homes. Unfortunately, migration from the war-torn and impoverished countries of Africa will grow for as long as standards of living between the North and the South continue to diverge so widely. Solving that is an even bigger challenge than Syria, and one that will dominate for years to come. If we do nothing or respond as inadequately as we have so far and do not take control of the problem, it will mean greater numbers of asylum seekers taking greater risks in journeying north, and for Europe it may well mean catastrophic destabilisation.
Mr NISSINEN (Sweden) – The two reports draw our much-needed attention to the vast network of organised crime surrounding the massive immigration wave into Europe – all the way from the sending countries, along the different travelling routes, and in the receiving countries themselves. Migrant smuggling has become more profitable than the smuggling of both weapons and drugs, we learn. About 30 000 people are involved in migrant smuggling in Europe alone, with 200 groups active just in Greece. Migrant smuggling has become an industry in its own right, one that has acquired a self-interest in expanding even further and becoming permanent. We also know that, besides organised crime, Islamic State profits in various ways, including by slipping its own members into the general migrant flow.
We should thoroughly revise the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the European Union’s Dublin Regulation. The right of asylum should apply strictly to the country of first entry, regardless of whether it is inside or outside Europe. Receiving countries must be given more economic and other support, and that holds for countries where migration originates. Furthermore, when refugees for various reasons need to be moved from one safe country to the next, it should be done through the resettlement process of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, legally and safely. Humanitarian assistance and resettlement can benefit a large number of refugees, without having them risk their lives and without supporting smuggling. Unless we take measures such as those, migrant smuggling – and its relation, human trafficking – will only grow further and expose even more innocent people to added exploitation, suffering and danger.
I fully agree with the aim stated in Mr Chikovani’s report, which is to transform migrant smuggling from what it is now, an activity of low risk and high profit, into one of high risk and low profit, until eventually it can be made to disappear altogether.
Ms YAŞAR (Turkey)* – Thank you, Madam President. I would like to speak in Turkish, my mother tongue. Distinguished members, I am a new member of this Assembly and this is my first speech.
The reports state important facts and present solutions for the problems created by the current waves of migration. I congratulate the rapporteurs on their meticulous work, which presents us with ground for discussion. In the face of the migration crisis, as Council of Europe countries we have two options. The first is to raise our walls and leave those people on their own, an option stated by some political leaders, unfortunately. Telling migrants openly that they will not be admitted because of their religion is not in conformity with European values. The second option is to provide the necessary protection for those people running for their lives. Turkey made that choice by opening its doors to all those in need, regardless of their ethnicity, language and religion. I am happy about and proud of that.
The instability that started in 2011, especially in the region that I come from, caused Syrians to flee from their country in masses. According to United Nations data, there are currently 2.5 million Syrians in Turkey. That is the updated figure. In 2014, Turkey also hosted the largest number of migrants and gave them temporary protection. It has spent well over $8 billion, but international donors have provided only $455 million in aid.
I do not want to explain in detail what my country has done, but I want to show how big the problem is. It is not just Turkey’s problem and it cannot be solved by Turkey alone. On the other hand, irregular migration is affecting many people’s lives and Turkey is determined to protect its shores. Our coastguard has saved more than 90 000 migrants from the sea. Everybody was sad when they saw the pictures of baby Alan. We cannot provide these people with a better life than their own countries can offer, but they are running for their lives, so we have to do our best and act. Many babies are drowning in the Mediterranean.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Yaşar. Unfortunately, I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the official report. The texts are to be submitted electronically, if possible.
I call Mr Chikovani, rapporteur for the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, to reply. You have seven minutes.
Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia) – If we asked the Table Office what the most frequent combination of words used in the Chamber has been today, I think it would say, “root causes” and “comprehensive joined approach”. The scale of the problem means that it is not just a humanitarian issue. I have been asked whether my report addresses migration properly. The name of my report speaks for itself: “Organised crime and migrants”. We focused only on the important matters related to the participation of organised crime groups in the migratory flows.
Of course, the root causes that have triggered the situation are different. We face not just a humanitarian threat, but a security threat, too. At the borders of Europe, there are underdeveloped States that are suffering as a result of war. If we do not tackle those root causes, we will have a problem. Nobody has done a comparative study of whether, if we had spent all the resources we are spending now beforehand, to support democracy and development in those countries, that would have been more beneficial. Perhaps we would have shared the burden and ensured that we had a better neighbourhood.
It is, of course, true that most of the migrants that come to this continent want to be settled in European Union countries. However, the transit countries are European countries, too. This is not just a European Union problem; it is a European problem, too, which is why we are discussing the issue in the Council of Europe. That is important, because the burden on European countries is huge.
There have been complaints about whether we are responding with enough urgency to the problem. Of course we are not. My report, which is the tool utilised by the Council of Europe, was initiated almost a year ago. I thank Mr Christoffersen, who has said that we should adopt the resolutions and recommendations. We have to make sure that the Committee of Ministers acts. That is what we can do. We have to be more proactive and push our governments to be more active locally and, of course, internationally.
I cannot agree more with my friend Mr Di Stefano, who said that our soldiers are not properly equipped, meaning that they do not have the proper legal tools and investigative powers or the proper equipment. That is a problem. The perpetrators – the organised crime groups – are utilising absolutely every option available to them. They will use anything that improves our lives as citizens to further their own bad aims. A clear example of that is Facebook, where the crime groups advertise their activities.
I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate. The length of the speakers list reflects the importance of the issue. We need to be much more proactive. A lot of elections are coming up and politicians will have to act accordingly, but solidarity and burden-sharing are worth promoting. We have a responsibility towards our countries, our people and, of course, those who suffer.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Chikovani. I call Ms Dumery, Rapporteur of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, to reply. You have four minutes.
Ms DUMERY (Belgium) – I thank all the speakers for their contributions to the debate. They have shown that this is a very difficult issue and that we should follow up on our reports and recommendations. The work does not stop here.
I want to address two issues, the first being the subtle discussion about the figures. How many Syrian refugees are there in Turkey – 1.9 million, 2 million or 2.5 million? All three of those figures are huge and show that Turkey faces a huge challenge. I must be sure of the figures that I use and I must be able to compare them with those provided by other countries. The only source that can give me such figures is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which gets its figures from the countries themselves. In a recent update on 19 January, it stated that 1.9 million Syrians have been registered by the Government of Turkey. My report states that the figure is 2 million, but what does it matter? I do not want to minimise the problem, and we should compare the figures, but when I asked Germany for its current figures, I found that they were also different from those provided by the UNHCR. The figures used are just an indication.
Secondly, I have heard support for the hotspots outside Europe. It is a very difficult subject that should be examined, and it is also important to the report, the aim of which is to make recommendations that will prevent people from risking their lives by crossing the Mediterranean to seek asylum. We can and must avoid it. When people ask for stricter border controls, they have to know the consequences: when people ask for asylum, we have to give them the chance to apply in a safe place. If we can do the procedure in Europe, it is not logical that we are unable to do it outside Europe to prevent people from risking their lives. We should examine that possibility, because it is a discussion point in many countries and I heard some Assembly members speak in support of the idea. It is an argument that we can acknowledge because it saves lives.
I thank the Assembly for its support for the report and the recommendations.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Ms Dumery.
Ms Gafarova, Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, you have two minutes to respond to the debate.
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – As the newly appointed Chair of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, I listened carefully to all the opinions that were expressed in this extremely interesting debate on the biggest migration and refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. Many speakers stressed that we should rethink the way the crisis is managed, review our asylum framework and consider processing asylum requests outside the European Union. The majority of speakers focused on looking for solutions to stop or at least substantially decrease the inflow of migrants. Some speakers referred to the recent dramatic events on new year’s eve in Cologne and other European cities. Even if there is no unanimity in our societies on such matters, we must acknowledge that migration is inevitable and continual. It will not just disappear when, or if, the armed conflicts are resolved – regrettably, that is unlikely to happen in the near future.
We need to anticipate changes in our societies and work towards their future development. The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons should contribute to such reflections. Today’s discussion is particularly important at a time when the majority of migration stories in public, media and political discourses focus on what many perceive as the challenges and problems of diverse societies. I do not want to undermine concerns about Europe’s experience of multiculturalism, particularly in relation to second-generation migrants, but we should shift our focus to examine the contributions that migrants make to member States and could make to our societies. The committee is well placed to facilitate the exchange of experiences and promote good practice in the huge challenges that face many Council of Europe member States. I look forward to the committee’s future activities and thank both rapporteurs for their work. I call on Assembly members to support the resolutions that the committee has proposed.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Gafarova.
The debate is closed.
The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons has presented a draft resolution, “The Mediterranean Sea: a front door to irregular migration”, Document 13942, to which six amendments have been tabled. I remind the Assembly that they will be taken in the order in which they appear in the Compendium of Amendments, which is the order in which they apply to the text. I stress that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.
We come to Amendment 2. I call Ms Yaşar to support the amendment.
Ms YAŞAR (Turkey)* – We would like to correct the figure in the draft resolution. According to our official figures, there are 2 503 549 Syrian refugees in Turkey, so I would like the paragraph to be changed accordingly.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – The committee is against the amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 2 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 3. I call Ms Yaşar to support the amendment.
Ms YAŞAR (Turkey)* – I do not wish to press the amendment to a vote because I think we are agreed about the hotspots.
The PRESIDENT* – We come to Amendment 4. I call Ms Yaşar to support the amendment.
Ms YAŞAR (Turkey)* – According to our official records, we have more than 2.5 million refugees in Turkey, which should affect the financial support that goes to Turkey. We want that to be strongly reflected in the draft resolution.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – The committee is against the amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 4 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 1. I call Ms Váhalová to support the amendment.
Ms VÁHALOVÁ (Czech Republic) – A permanent relocation mechanism would interfere too much in the sovereignty of European Union member States. The matter should be agreed by them all, every time.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – The committee is against the amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 1 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 5. I call Ms Yaşar to support the amendment.
Ms YAŞAR (Turkey)* – My country has been calling for the establishment of shelter and reception centres since the beginning of the crisis in Syria. We want the text to be stronger on those two points.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – The committee is against.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 5 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 6. I call Ms Yaşar to support the amendment.
Ms YAŞAR (Turkey)* – We believe that the records on migration and asylum should be kept more regularly and the authorities of the receiving countries need to be more responsible. We believe that we have to start a registration system, and I am in favour of the report.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – The committee is against.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 6 is rejected.
We will now proceed to a vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13942. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 13942 is adopted, with 126 votes for, 8 against and 9 abstentions.
The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons has presented a draft resolution, “Organised crime and migrants”, Document 13941, to which no amendments have been tabled.
We will now proceed to a vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13941. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 13941 is adopted, with 126 votes for, 2 against and 7 abstentions.
3. Next public business
The PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3.30 p.m., with the agenda that was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 1.05 p.m.)
1. Changes in the membership of committees
2. Joint debate: the Mediterranean Sea: a front door to irregular migration and organised crime and migrants
Presentation by Ms Dumery of the report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Document 13942
Presentation by Mr Chikovani of the report of the Committee on Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Document 13941
Speakers: Mr Vareikis, Ms Strik, Mr Eseyan, Mr Küçükcan, Ms Christodoulopoulou, Ms Schou, Mr Le Borgn’, Mr Hollik, Ms Allain, Ms Christoffersen, Mr Heer, Mr Preda, Ms Pashayeva, Mr Markuszower, Mr Zech, Baroness Massey, Mr Fournier, Ms Katrivanou, Mr Yatim, Mr Pozzo di Borgo, Mr Madison, Ms Kyriakidou, Ms Bilgehan, Mr di Stefano, Mr Šircelj, Ms Sotnyk, Mr Dokle, Mr Salles, Ms Ohlsson, Ms Zampa, Ms Kavvadia, Mr Ameur, Ms Johnsen, Ms Dobešová, Ms Kerestecioğlu Demir, Ms Duranton, Ms Dalloz, Ms Mitchell, Mr Nissinen, Ms Yaşar.
Replies: Mr Chikovan, Ms Dumery, Ms Gafarova
Draft resolution in Document 13942 adopted
Draft resolution in Document 13941 adopted
3. Next public business
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk
Werner AMON/Eduard Köck
Lord Donald ANDERSON
Khadija ARIB/Tineke Strik
Volodymyr ARIEV/Pavlo Unguryan
Anna ASCANI/Tamara Blazina
José Manuel BARREIRO*
Ondřej BENEŠIK/Jana Fischerová
Sali BERISHA/Oerd Bylykbashi
Włodzimierz BERNACKI/Jarosław Obremski
Anna Maria BERNINI/ Claudio Fazzone
Maria Teresa BERTUZZI*
Ľuboš BLAHA/Darina Gabániová
Maryvonne BLONDIN/ Jean-Claude Frécon
Piet De BRUYN
Joseph DEBONO GRECH
Manlio DI STEFANO
Sergio DIVINA/Giuseppe Galati
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*
Lady Diana ECCLES*
Franz Leonhard EẞL*
Joseph FENECH ADAMI*
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU
Doris FIALA/Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter
Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Ivana Dobešová
Axel E. FISCHER
Sir Roger GALE/Kelly Tolhurst
Francesco Maria GIRO*
Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES
Alina Ștefania GORGHIU*
François GROSDIDIER/Yves Pozzo Di Borgo
Gergely GULYÁS/István Hollik
Emine Nur GÜNAY
Andrzej HALICKI/Tomasz Cimoszewicz
Michael HENNRICH/Bernd Fabritius
Martin HENRIKSEN/Rasmus Nordqvist
Ekmeleddin Mehmet İHSANOĞLU
Denis JACQUAT/André Schneider
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Frank J. JENSSEN
Florina-Ruxandra JIPA/Viorel Riceard Badea
Aleksandar JOVIČIĆ/Dejan Kovačević
Mustafa KARADAYI/Hamid Hamid
Marietta KARAMANLI/Pascale Crozon
Nina KASIMATI/Evangelos Venizelos
Filiz KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR
Bogdan KLICH/Aleksander Pociej
Haluk KOÇ/Metin Lütfi Baydar
Željko KOMŠIĆ/Saša Magazinović
Unnur Brá KONRÁÐSDÓTTIR/Brynjar Níelsson
Ksenija KORENJAK KRAMAR
Rom KOSTŘICA/Gabriela Pecková
Julia KRONLID/Johan Nissinen
Eerik-Niiles KROSS/Jaak Madison
Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT
Luís LEITE RAMOS
François LONCLE/Catherine Quéré
Thierry MARIANI/Marie-Christine Dalloz
Soňa MARKOVÁ/Pavel Holík
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE*
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA
Ana Catarina MENDES*
Jean-Claude MIGNON/Rudy Salles
Marian NEACȘU/Titus Corlăţean
Kate OSAMOR/Liam Byrne
Tom PACKALÉN/Anne Louhelainen
Florin Costin PÂSLARU*
Agnieszka POMASKA/Killion Munyama
Cezar Florin PREDA
Lia QUARTAPELLE PROCOPIO/Sandra Zampa
Christina REES/Baroness Doreen Massey
Vincenzo SANTANGELO/Maria Edera Spadoni
Milena SANTERINI/Eleonora Cimbro
Nadiia SAVCHENKO/Boryslav Bereza
Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Egidijus Vareikis
Jan ŠKOBERNE/Matjaž Hanžek
Lorella STEFANELLI/Gerardo Giovagnoli
Goran TUPONJA/Snežana Jonica
İbrahim Mustafa TURHAN/Burhanettin Uysal
Leyla Şahin USTA
Snorre Serigstad VALEN/Kristin Ørmen Johnsen
Katrin WERNER/Annette Groth
Bas van ‘t WOUT/ Gidi Markuszower
Marie-Jo ZIMMERMANN/Anne-Yvonne Le Dain
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Vacant Seat, Spain/Pedro Azpiazu
Vacant Seat, Spain/José María Chiquillo
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Republic of Moldova/Valentina Buliga
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Héctor LARIOS CÓRDOVA
Armando LUNA CANALES
Ulises RAMÍREZ NÚÑEZ
Partners for democracy
Nezha EL OUAFI
M. Omar HEJIRA