Human rights NGOs in damning criticism of EU migration resolutions

14 human rights NGOs argue that human trafficking is a 'secondary' problem when compared to 'the impossibility of refugees to safely and legally enter the EU'

14 Maltese human rights NGOs have accused the European Council of interpreting the recent deaths of around 1,000 migrants as an “illegal migration phenomenon”.

“A long as member states stick to this approach, migrants and refugees will perish as they knock on Europe’s doors,” the NGOs – aditus Foundation, African Media Association Malta, Foundation for Shelter and Support of Migrants, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrants’ Network for Equality, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, Peace Lab, People for Change Foundation, and SOS Malta- said in a joint statement.

The European Council held an extraordinary summit on Thursday to discuss the Mediterranean crisis in light of two recent migrant shipwrecks on which around 1,000 people perished.

During the meeting, the leaders of EU member states notably agreed to triple the monthly budget of Triton, the Frontex-operated border mission, to €9 million. They also requested that EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini propose actions to capture and destroy the boats of human traffickers that organise migrant crossings before they can be used.

Instead, the NGOs argued that traffickers, smugglers, and countries of transit are secondary problems “in the face of the impossibility of refugees to safely and legally enter the European Union”.

“While the proposed measures might be effective in curbing trafficking and smuggling activities from Libya, they will definitely lead to the opening up of new and possibly more dangerous routes,” the NGOs said.

While Triton’s budget will be tripled to the level of last year’s Mare Nostrum operation, its operational area will remain unchanged and its ships will not be located closer to the Libyan coast.

“The EU’s statement seems to indicate that there will be no extension of search and rescue coverage,” the NGOs said. “If so, the commitment to prevent people from dying will remain a paper statement marking 23 April as the day the European Union decided to abandon people at sea.

“We are eager to see details of the upcoming roadmap, yet also remind the EU institutions and member state of the extreme urgency to shift from discussion to action as the next tragedy could possibly be days away.”

The European Association for the Defense of Human Rights also accused the European Council of “attempting to shelter the EU and its member states from migrants by toughening border protection”.

“The EU heads of government, who met with great ado, had but one message for those thousands of human beings- men, women, and children – who risk death and often find it, attempting to reach a place to rebuild their lives,” the EADH said in a statement. “That message was: “Security!” They did not seek to put an end to the race to the bottom between member states to take as few migrants as possible after rejecting all the others. As for the word “welcome”, it does not form part of the vocabulary of the Heads of Government  

“Combating emigration with the support of third countries, deportation, refoulement and detention in specialised centres and criminalization of entry are just part of what survivors experience when they have finished counting their dead. In taking these shameful measures, the European Council turns its back on its responsibility, adding its own dishonour to the ranks of the dead.

They insisted that all European associations and organizations that defend the rights of all to live somewhere in safety cannot accept the EU Council’s position, and said that they will decide how to oppose this “deadly policy” in the coming weeks.

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