Support countries dealing with thousands of refugees, EU urged

EESC president: “We need to provide minimum care services for asylum seekers and meet minimum interpreting requirements”

European countries have been urged to support the Southern European countries currently dealing with thousands of refugees from North African countries.

“Most EU Member States and their citizens are going through hard times as a result of the global financial crisis and austerity measures,” Staffan Nilsson, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), said.

“The hard times that Europeans are currently experiencing should not however deflect our attention from the hard times of our neighbours in the Southern Mediterranean. We need to work more closely with countries in the Southern Mediterranean in order to manage migration flows and help them address the root causes of migration, such as poverty, conflicts or lack of democratic governance mechanisms,” Mr. Nilsson said.

He urged the Member States to act in a spirit of solidarity and uphold this value that is so fundamental to the EU. “If this means burden-sharing of migration flow, whatever form that might take, then that is what needs to be done.”

Appealing for the protection of lives of people fleeing from North Africa, Mr. Nilsson said: “Action is needed now to prevent people losing their lives in the pursuit of freedom. Managing migration flows and asylum seekers hinges on a number of key variables: safeguarding of human rights, solidarity among Member States, coordination of policies and legislation in this field and proper funding. But most of all, the EU’s political identity and values are closely bound up with safeguarding human rights.”

Mr. Nilsson warned that failure to save people’s lives “would greatly damage the EU’s internal and external credibility as a political and democratic body. The EESC believes that a truly functional common European asylum system is the most effective and sustainable response both to the need to protect people at risk and to the concomitant impact on the Member States. In this spirit, we need to provide minimum care services for asylum seekers and meet minimum interpreting requirements.”

Mr. Nilsson said the European countries “need to act on the word solidarity” and help Southern European countries currently handling a massive influx of refugees from North African countries.

“This is a matter for all Member States in the EU. As Commissioner (Cecilia) Malmström has so rightly pointed out, in addition to solidarity from people to people, we need solidarity among Member States,” Mr. Nilsson added.