Migration is a complex problem that needs a comprehensive and long-term approach, but the first priority for European leaders must be to stop the death toll that is a stain on the conscience of our continent. The events of recent weeks in the Mediterranean show that stopping search and rescue has not dissuaded migrants, but vastly increased the numbers of deaths. According to UNHCR, over 1,600 migrants have died in 2015 while trying to make the crossing.
We call on the EU Heads of State and Government to go beyond the ten-point plan issued earlier this week in immediately restoring an expansive search and rescue operation in Mediterranean waters, with a mandate and level of funding that match the humanitarian emergency that confronts us.
The wave of migration from North African shores is fuelled by turmoil and conflict across the Middle East and parts of Africa, and amplified by the breakdown of state authority in Libya. The EU is rightly committed to do what it can to help reverse these developments, but there will be no easy or short-term solution. In the meantime, the EU must accept that attempts at migration will continue on a large scale and develop a range of measures that reflect our values and responsibilities, including:
- Restore and expand search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean with the requisite mandate and level of funding.
- Set up a system of relocation within the EU to reduce the weight of the burden falling on a handful of member states.
- Promote and fund the temporary accommodation of refugees outside the EU through the construction of safe and decent facilities in third countries.
- Substantially increase the UNHCR quota system, to be applied on an equitable basis.
- Launch a cooperative law enforcement effort to break trafficking networks, confiscate or destroy their assets and prosecute those involved.
Measures such as these are necessary to ensure that the EU’s approach to the complex challenge of migration is sustainable, equitable and humane. However the starting point of the European response to the recent surge in migrant deaths must be a recognition that we cannot allow such terrible events to afflict those trying to reach our shores.
The following signatories have endorsed this statement in a personal capacity
Senem Aydin, Jean Monnet Chair, Istanbul Bilgi University
Roland Berger, Founder, Roland Berger Foundation
Carl Bildt, former Foreign Minister, former Prime Minister, Sweden
Emma Bonino, former Foreign Minister, Italy.
Stine Bosse, Chair of the Board, BankNordik Group
John Bruton, former Taoiseach, Ireland
Gunilla Carlsson, former International Development Minister, Sweden
Massimo D’Alema, former Foreign Minister, former Prime Minister, Italy
Tibor Dessewffy, President, Demos Hungary
Andrew Duff, former Member of the European Parliament
Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council
Tanja Fajon, Member of the European Parliament
Karin Forseke, Alliance Trust Plc
Lykke Friis, Prorector, University of Copenhagen; former Minister for Climate and Energy, Denmark
Teresa Gouveia, former Foreign Minister
Charles Grant, Director, Centre for European Reform
Dzema Grozdanova, Chair of the Foreign Policy Committee, Bulgarian Parliament
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, CEO & President, International Crisis Group
Ulrike Guérot, Founder & Director, European Democracy Lab
Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament; former Minister for International Development, Finland
Danuta Huebner, Member of the European Parliament
Jaakko Iloniemi, former Ambassador, Finland
Caio Koch-Weser, Vice-Chairman, Deutsche Bank Group
Bassma Kodmani, Executive Director, Arab Reform Initiative
David Koranyi, Director, Eurasian Energy Futures, Atlantic Council
Bernard Kouchner, former Foreign Minister, France
Ivan Krastev, Chair of Board, Centre for Liberal Strategies
Mark Leonard, Director, European Council on Foreign Relations
Sonja Licht, President, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence
Irene Lozano, Member of the Congress of Deputies, Spain
Joseph Misfud, Director of the London Academy of Diplomacy
Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
Hedvig Morvai, Executive Director, European Fund for the Balkans
Kalypso Nicolaidis, Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford
Daithi O’Ceallaigh, former Ambassador, Ireland
Andrzej Olechowski, former Foreign Minister, Poland
Dick Oosting, CEO, European Council on Foreign Relations
Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides – The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage
Zaneta Ozolina, Professor of International Relations, University of Latvia
Ana Palacio, Member of the Council of State and former Foreign Minister, Spain
Laurence Parisot, Vice President, IFOP
Chris Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University; former EU Commissioner
Tobias Raffel, Member of the Executive Board, Roland Berger Foundation
Albert Rohan, former Ambassador, Austria
Daniel Sachs, CEO, Proventus
Aleksander Smolar, Chair of the Board, Stefan Batory Foundation
Javier Solana, former EU High Representative for the Common Foreign & Security Policy and former Secretary General of NATO
George Soros, Founder & Chairman, Open Society Foundations
Volker Stanzel, former Ambassador, Germany
Michael Stuermer, Chief Correspondent, Die Welt
Ion Sturza, Founder & Chairman, Fribourg Capital
Hannes Swoboda, former Member of the European Parliament
Nathalie Tocci, Deputy Director, Istituto Affari Internazional
Loukas Tsoukalis, Professor, University of Athens and President, ELIAMEP
Alvaro de Vasconcelos, Senior Associate Researcher at the Arab Reform Initiative; former Director of the European Union Institute for Security Studies
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former President of Latvia
Andre Wilkens, Author
Stelios Zavvos, Chair of SolidarityNow and Founder & CEO, Zeus Capital Managers
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.