1 October 2014
EU states urged to rethink migration policies and to share responsibility for search and rescue programmes
In attempting to seal their borders, European nations are facing an ‘impossible’ task, the UN independent expert on the human rights of migrants wrote in an open letter to the EU’s Committee on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, as he encouraged the EU to identify new legal channels of migration in an effort to save lives. ‘Sealing international borders is impossible, and migrants will continue arriving despite all efforts to stop them, at a terrible cost in lives and suffering’, Special Rapporteur François Crépeau wrote.
According to UN estimates, 2014 has seen more than 130,000 migrants and asylum-seekers land on Europe’s shores compared with 80,000 last year, while an estimated 800 people have already died in their attempts to cross the Mediterranean. ‘If Europe is to witness a significant reduction of human suffering at borders, it must bank not on strict closure, but on regulated openness and mobility’, he added.
The Special Rapporteur noted that although EU member states had increased search and rescue operations, their focus continued to remain on restricting the entry of migrants. He warned that without regulated open migration channels, the EU would see illegal migration continue to plunge deeper underground where smuggling mafias and exploitative employers operate while also contributing to an uptick in the number of deaths at sea.
In addition, he urged EU member states to assist Europe’s beleaguered frontline countries, such as Italy, Malta, Greece and Spain, in managing the search and rescue missions. Italy’s Mare Nostrum operations have been credited with the lion’s share of responsibility in saving stranded migrants and has, according to media reports, saved around 100,000 people since the beginning of the year. ‘The search and rescue programmes cannot be the sole responsibility of the frontline countries’, he said.