MEPs say legal entry into the EU is ‘preferable’ to irregular channels

European Parliament calls on EU to act fast on migration to prevent human tragedies.

Tragedies such as the drowning of would-be migrants off Lampedusa must mark a turning point for Europe, the European Parliament said today, as the 24-25 October EU summit beckons.

These can only be prevented by EU-coordinated efforts inspired by solidarity and responsibility, MEPs held.

"Legal entry into the EU is preferable to a more dangerous irregular entry, which could entail human trafficking risks and loss of life", MEPs stressed.

They called for the EU and its member states to consider the tools available under the EU's visa policy and EU labour migration legislation.

In addition, the European Parliament recognised the huge efforts made by the inhabitants of Italy and Malta, and especially Lampedusa, and by NGOs like Caritas and Red Cross, for the first reception and the rescue operations in favour of all immigrants.

MEPs reiterated that EU member states have a legal duty to assist migrants in distress at sea and noted that legal entry into the EU is preferable to a more dangerous irregular sort.

"The EU and its member states must do more to prevent further loss of life at sea," the European Parliament added.

MEPs expressed deep sadness and regret at the tragic loss of life off Lampedusa, once again pointing the need for member states to abide by their international sea-rescue obligations in order to save the lives of people in danger.

"Lampedusa should be a turning point for Europe", Parliament noted, adding that "the only way of preventing another tragedy is to adopt a coordinated approach based on solidarity and responsibility, with the support of common instruments".  

MEPs also stressed that the relocation of asylum seekers "is one of the most concrete forms of solidarity and responsibility-sharing".

Parliament also urged third countries to abide by international law on saving lives at sea.

Migration management agreements between the EU and the transit countries should be "a priority for the EU in the near future", as well as assistance for the migrants' countries of origin, it added.

MEPs also called on the EU to continue to offer humanitarian, financial and political assistance in crisis areas in North Africa and the Middle East in order to tackle migration and humanitarian pressures at their root cause.

MEPs also called for humanitarian assistance to survivors, and urge the EU and the member states to amend or review any laws to ensure that people cannot be punished for assisting migrants in distress at sea.

Moreover, Parliament backed European Commission proposals to deploy a search-and-rescue operation from Cyprus to Spain and its intention to establish a task force on migratory flows in the Mediterranean as "a first step towards a more ambitious approach". 

MEPs also asked the Council and Commission to consider establishing an EU coast guard.

Parliament called for strong criminal penalties against anyone who facilitates human trafficking both into and across the EU, and better coordination of EU means and resources, including those at the disposal of border management agency Frontex (such as the Eurosur border surveillance system) and Europol in order to step up, together with third countries, the fight against criminal networks of human traffickers and smugglers

Parliament asked for more funding for the European Asylum Support Office and Frontex to help member states to cope with humanitarian emergencies and mount sea rescue operations.