Saturday

22nd Jan 2022

Europe’s 'credibility' on brink over migrants

  • Conflict displaced a record 59.5 million people last year (Photo: DVIDSHUB)

Sixty percent of people risking their lives to reach Europe by sea since the start of this year are fleeing war and violence from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Syria.

The figures, cited by the UN's refugee agency, are part of much larger exodus that has reached historic proportions. Worldwide, 59.5 million were displaced last year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The UN’s high commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres on Thursday (18 June) described it as “an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before.”

Nearly half of all refugees are children.

From Syria, most end up in refugee camps in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Turkey. Lebanon is now hosting over 1 million refugees, or the equivalent to around one-quarter of its population.

The European Commission is trying to convince member states to resettle 20,000 refugees. But the plan, along with an adjoining relocation scheme, is causing grief among EU ministers.

Earlier this week at a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg they remained at odds on the binding nature of the scheme with EU heads of instead set to discuss it again next week at a summit in Brussels.

Credibility

Salil Shetty, secretary-general at Amnesty International told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that such comparative refugee figures with countries like Lebanon have placed Europe in an awkward position.

“I think it erodes Europe’s legitimacy and credibility to talk on human rights to anybody else in the world. You are really compromised at that point,” he said.

Without legal ways to enter Europe and no humanitarian visas, people continue to leave on boats from the Libyan coast or try to enter by foot from the Turkish or Serbian borders in an effort to reach their final destination.

The act is not criminal.

Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri says crossing an external border without proper documents "is not a criminal offence.”

“Those people are not criminals,” he told reporters last month.

In 2014, 219,000 crossed the Mediterranean Sea, up from 60,000 the previous year. Nearly 100,000 have made the attempt since the start of 2015.

The faces

Human Rights Watch (HRW), for its part, is trying to put a face onto the numbers of those reaching Europe’s southern shores.

On Friday, it published a 33-page report with 150 testimonies from people who survived the journey.

Among them is a 30-year old lawyer from Syria who landed on the Greek island of Lesbos in early May.

“I left two months ago because I’m an activist and I’m afraid they would arrest me,” he says.

Others, like one 14-year old boy, are being recruited by rebels to fight in a conflict that has so far killed an estimated 13,000 children.

“Maybe we’ll live and maybe we’ll die,” he said.

In Somalia, Al-Shabaab militants are targeting and shutting down schools and recruiting children into their ranks.

Italian authorities say Somali children are now the third largest group of unaccompanied minors that reached its shores in 2014.

“There is no security, no hope, no health, no water, no peace since I was born,” Ismael, a Somali national told HRW in May.

This article was updated at 11.15 on Friday 19 June 2015 to include Eritrea as among the 60 percent fleeing persecution

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us