Press conference – Commissioner-designate Avramopoulos: the Mediterranean Sea is not a cemetery, Europe must revise its migration policy

When: Wednesday 1 October @ 12.30
Where: European Parliament press room Brussels, Room 0A50 Paul Henri Spaak building
Translation: EN/FR/IT

– Michèle Rivasi (FR), Greens-EFA MEP, Vice-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly
– Alexandre Georges, European citizen and founder of the movement “Kayak for the right to life”
– Cécile Kyenge (IT), S&D MEP, former Integration Minister, member of the LIBE Committee
– Laura Ferrara (IT),EFDD MEP, membrer of the LIBE and DROI Committees
– Marie-Christine Vergiat (FR), GUE-NGL MEP, member of the AFET, DROI and LIBE Committees
– Cécile Vanderstappen, Migreurop network

Since the beginning of 2014, at least 3000 people have died in the Mediterranean sea, and this figure only counts the corpses found. It’s four times more than in 2013, six times more than in 2012, and double the figure of 2011 – year of the “Arab springs”. Since 1988, the total number of people that have perished is estimated to exceed 21 000. The people who risk their lives to cross the sea are refugees or asylum seekers fleeing persecution in their country of origin and the first transit countries are Greece, Spain and Italy.
Over the last few years, Europe has essentially externalised European migration policies to the southern EU Member States with borders on the Mediterranean, rather than combating the causes of human trafficking.

With the human tragedy continuing in the Mediterranean, the EU must urgently revise its migration policy. Following the shipwreck of October 2013 off the Coast of Lampedusa Island, Italy temporarily set up the Mare Nostrum military operation to prevent other tragedies from happening. At the same time, the European border control agency Frontex patrols in the same waters, monitoring, detecting and intercepting boats. Frontex is not supposed to carry out rescue missions, which are the business of the national authorities. The lack of appropriate action by the Member States is now such that private initiatives have been emerging, such as the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, funded by philanthropists.

Behind these tragedies hides the implementation of current European migration policies, which have transformed access to EU territory into a dangerous gamble in which criminal organisations take advantage of migrants’ misery. Some of these organisations set themselves up as detention centres in order to benefit from the generous subsidies offered by the EU, and over-declare the number of people in their care, as well providing very poor living conditions. And while the authorities turn a blind eye, other organisations take advantage of this servile workforce, making them work in poor conditions with a few euros as a daily salary. With the migrants kept in deliberately poor conditions as a deterrent, tensions and revolts are commonplace.

After having tried every security measure possible against unlawful immigration and while this has enabled criminal organisations to prosper, the EU must face the fact that its migration policy has failed and must be reformed. The more barriers the EU places against unlawful migration, the higher the risk to migrants and the greater the likelihood of loss of life.

For these reasons, MEPs from several different political groups have invited to the Parliament Mr Alexandre Georges, who lived in Lampedusa and witnessed the first arrivals of migrants. He travelled for three years in a kayak on the tracks of migrants from Tunisia to Brussels, passing by Lampedusa Island, in order to bring a powerful message to the European institutions.


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Par Michèle Rivasi

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