Migration crisis requires action in countries of origin

Petr Ježek has called attention to the plight of migrants trying to enter Europe through the Mediterranean. 

By Petr Ježek

14 May 2015

Europe is facing its most serious migration crisis since the second world war. Last year around 280,000 irregular migrants came to Europe by sea. 

In the first quarter of this year, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees estimates that 1700 died at sea. This is a huge increase compared to the estimated 96 people who died during the same period last year. 

Hundreds of thousands of people set off for this journey with the aspiration for a better life in Europe. Stanislav Krupař, a renowned Czech photographer and the recipient of several international awards, together with Wolfgang Bauer, reporter for German newspaper Die Zeit, joined a group of Syrian refugees who were trying to reach Europe from Egypt last April. 


Posing as refugees from the Caucasus, the reporters paid €2800 each to an Egyptian smuggling ring that promised to get the group onto a boat that was bound for Sicily.

Krupař documented their journey, which led them to an island just off the Egyptian shore, through a series of photographs. 

The smugglers left the migrants on the island and said another boat would come. Eventually, they were discovered by an Egyptian navy patrol and taken to a detention centre in Alexandria.

For many illegal migrants, this is how the story ends - if they are lucky and do not drown in the Mediterranean. Still, the future is so much promising in Europe that they try to gather more money and give the journey another try.

I will be hosting an exhibition of Krupař's photographs in Strasbourg on 20 May. It will give visitors an insight into the journey migrants undertake to come to Europe, and hopefully impress upon them the urgency of the situation.

It will also be an opportunity to discuss the commission's new agenda for migration, which will be debated in plenary on the same day.

Last week I visited a migrant reception centre in Malta with colleagues from parliament's ALDE group. We met with European asylum support office representatives, who highlighted the worrying situation. 

I am convinced that unless radical changes are made in the countries of origin, the migratory flows will continue to increase. EU external policies and development cooperation with third countries should be further targeted to address this. We need a more long-term approach. 

Europe must deepen cooperation with partners in its eastern and southern neighbourhood on migration management. We should build a strong political dialogue on migration between Brussels, migrants' countries of origin and transit countries to help support governments of EU partner countries in the fight against organised crime and smugglers. 

With the United Nations security council often blocking action, the EU must intensify its efforts to make a real difference to the situation.

The future of the EU depends not only on the unity of the member states, but also on how we address the current challenges. The migration crisis, regardless of its causes, has a heavy impact on us.


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