EU leaders decided to reinforce search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean to detect vessels and boats with migrants and prevent deaths and tragedies like the recent one in Lampedusa. But a reform on migration and asylum matters will have to wait until June 2014. There was agreement about what to do to fight the deaths of migrants trying the dangerous trip from Africa to Europe but not about what to do with thousands of asylum seekers and migrants who arrive. “The european Council, it was decided, will return to asylum and migration issues in a broader and longer term policy perspective in June 2014, when strategic guidelines for further legislative and operational planning in the area of freedom, security and justice will be defined”. A long delay for the most affected by the problem like the island of Lampedusa and in general the south of Italy and Spain.
The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said about this that
Regarding Lampedusa and the issues of illegal migration and refugees in Europe: that was probably the most substantive discussion on a political level we had during this European Council. As I saw for myself, when I visited Lampedusa at the invitation of the Italian government, the scale of the human tragedy in the Mediterranean means we have to act now. The European Union cannot accept that thousands of people die at our borders.
Sadly, this is not a new problem, and we have been working on this issue for many years. But I believe now there is a sense of urgency that will make things happen. Now Member States asked the European Commission to lead a task force on the issue. We will present a report to the Council in December, we will discuss this matter also again at the European Council and today I have called for a stronger response from the European Union in several areas, namely four areas that are now already in the agenda of this task force that already met once:
Reinforce search and rescue operations to save lives.
To help the frontline member states, namely the countries of the European Union that are more exposed to this situation.
Thirdly, the need to work with the countries of origin and transit so that we can manage migration flows.
And fourth but not the least in importance, the fight against organised crime and human trafficking. These were the priorities that were extensively discussed by the European Council.
The conclusions of the European Council say that
The European council expresses its deep sadness at the recent and dramatic death of hundreds of people in the Mediterranean which shocked all Europeans. Based on the imperative of prevention and guided by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, determined action should be taken in order to prevent the loss of lives at sea and to avoid that such human tragedies happen again.
The European Council underlines the importance of addressing root causes of migration flow by enhancing cooperation with the countries of origin and transit, including through appropriate EU development support and an effective return policy. It also calls for closer cooperation with the relevant international organisations, in particular UNHCR and the International Organisation of Migration in the third countries concerned. Not only in the territory of the EU Member States but also in the countries of origin and transit, the fight against trafficking and smuggling of human beings should be stepped up. Furthermore, the European Council calls for the reinforcement of Frontex activities in the Mediterranean and along the Southeastern borders of the EU., Swift implementation by Member States of the new European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) will be crucial to help detecting vessels and illegal entries, contributing to protecting and saving lives at the EU’s external borders.
The European Council invites the newly established Task Force for the Mediterranean, led by the European Commission and involving Member States, EU agencies and the EEAS, to identify – based on the principles of prevention, protection and solidarity – priority actions for a more efficient short term use of European policies and tools. There Commission will report to the Council at its meeting of 5-6 December 2013 on the work of the Task Force with a view of taking operational decisions. The Presidency will report to the European Council in December,
The european Council will return to asylum and migration issues in a broader and longer term policy perspective in June 2014, when strategic guidelines for further legislative and operational planning in the area of freedom, security and justice will be defined.
- Italy: 700 refugees saved at sea amid EU deadlock (kansascity.com)
- Italian coast guards rescue 700 migrants off Lampedusa (edition.cnn.com)