BRUSSELS, Belgium – More than two months after 366 African migrants perished off the coast of Lampedusa October 3, European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has presented a series of strategies to stop migration disasters from reoccurring. Although thousands of Africans migrate to E.U. member-states every year, the tragedy at Lampedusa triggered a concerted effort among European countries to help African migrants cross safely into Europe without having to resort to human smugglers and other dangerous means.
Among her proposals, Malmström lists updated and better funded border surveillance as key to keeping migrants safe. Europe’s border control management organization, Frontex, recommends strengthening aerial and maritime surveillance as well as rescue capacity for a reported cost of 14 million euro , or nearly $20 million, in 2014.
On a smaller scale, Malmström proposes assuring shipmasters and merchant vessels that helping migrants in distress will not lead to disciplinary actions from the E.U. To further illustrate their point, the E.U. would organize fast and safe drop-off points for any rescued migrants.
“It has to be clear that, provided that they are acting in good faith, they would not face any negative legal consequences for providing such assistance,” states the E.U.’s press release.
Malmström also confronts the reality that the southern members of the E.U. bear the brunt of African migration. Although all European nations are responsible for systemized asylum, migration, and integration programs, she acknowledges the need for additional support placed into Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta, all high-pressure migration destinations. For that reason, Malmström stressed the importance of member states in helping resettle refugees located at the United Nations Refugee Agency outside Syria.
“This is the single most efficient short-term measure that member states can do to help prevent these very vulnerable people from taking the dangerous route over the Mediterranean,” she said.
In 2012, only 12 member states out of the 28 relocated 4,930 persons while in the same year the United States resettled over 50,000. To facilitate greater participation in this program, the European Commission intends to reimburse participating members with 6,000 euro, or $8,200, per resettled refugee.
One of Malmström’s greatest interests is her commitment to solidarity, not only among members of the E.U., but also between Southern Mediterranean and African countries. The Mobility Partnership is one such manifestation of that commitment. For countries such as Tunisia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Morocco, Mobility Partnership allows them to work together and identify channels for regular migration, develop human rights in their region, and increase collaboration in fighting human smugglers and traffickers.
The Commission reported their 38 proposals to the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers December 5 and 6.
– Emily Bajet
Sources: Europa, Deutsche Welle, BBC Europe, BBC World
Photo: Atlanta Black Star