Bring back the European Dream

Monica Frassoni, Co-Chair of the European Green Party, comments on the latest news from the Mediterranean, where hundreds of migrants are confirmed dead after their boat capsized on its way to Europe.

“We would like to express our condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims of this latest tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea. The lives lost do not simply represent clandestine migrants, but people who are, in many cases, escaping from war, violence and endless poverty, and they have a right to be helped and rescued.

Triton is not fit for this purpose, not only because of its limited resources, but also because it is aimed at protecting Europe’s borders as opposed to saving lives. The illusion that stopping Mare Nostrum would discourage these dangerous trips has proved false. Migrants and asylum seekers continue flocking to Europe at an increasing rate. This situation will not change in the coming weeks and months, and the EU member states should acknowledge that priority needs to be given to saving and giving refuge to people, not making “fortress Europe” even more impenetrable. The latter has proven tragically impossible.

Prime Minister Renzi said that the EU shouldn’t look the other way, as it did 20 years ago in Srebrenica. We agree with him. We also agree that there is a need to stop human trafficking, and as is the case with piracy, it is necessary to organise an efficient and international system to monitor and control ships, to stop these dangerous trips from ever starting.

But this is not enough. Firstly because these measures alone would simply make it even more difficult for refugees to find a safe haven. Secondly, it could also seem to enforce the wrong EU priority - That of keeping migrants and refugees out.

There is no way around it. The EU and all of its member states must accept taking a greater share of refugees, and facilitating legal access to the EU. Procedures and safe corridors must be set up to this effect, and it is therefore urgent to establish a revived European wide Mare Nostrum, that is properly financed. Also, for Syrian refugees in particular, temporary protection must be granted, and visa requirements must be lifted.

Furthermore, there are millions of people stranded in very poor conditions in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. The EU must play a bigger role in ensuring better cooperation and assistance to those countries, and the UNCHR, who denounce the insufficient funds that are available on a daily basis.

We believe that it is possible to gain public opinion support in the EU. We have a responsibility to avoid so many innocent deaths, but to do so, the EU has to change more than its asylum and migration policy. We believe that there is a strong correlation between austerity policies, and the incapability of the EU to deal with adequate funding and political direction challenges, such as the conflicts in the Middle East and the influx of migrants and refugees.

Most of the countries on the front-line, in the south and south-east of Europe, do not have the resources necessary for the sustainable and humane treatment of people pressing through their borders. Therefore, it could be envisaged that the expenses to rescue and assist refugees and asylum seekers are not counted as debt. Countries such as Greece could get 100% funding from the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, in contrast to the current 50%. A portion of unspent EU funds could also be redirected to supporting the search, rescue and support of migrants and refugees.

Alex Langer, a prominent European Green leader, once said that the dream of Europe died in Sarajevo. Let us not miss this occasion to bring it back to life."


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