Refugee crisis: MEPs slam EU leaders' lack of action

EU heads of state are set to convene in Brussels for a Council meeting focusing on the ongoing refugee crisis.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

15 Oct 2015

In his invitation letter to heads of state, European Council President Donald Tusk said, "let us be clear about one thing. The exceptionally easy access to Europe is one of the main pull factors. In this context, we should consider the future of the Dublin system, which is now in force, and whether to keep it as it is or to look for alternatives, the specific role of hotspots and the strengthening on our external border, including a possible EU border guard."

While Tusk may think that access to Europe is, "exceptionally easy", it is important to point out that thousands of refugees have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean, while others walk for weeks to reach EU borders, and must then live in overcrowded and underfunded camps. 

A number of countries have gone to great lengths to keep refugees out, with Hungary building a razor wire fence across its border, for example.


Last month, member states agreed plans to relocate 160,000 refugees from those EU countries finding it hardest to deal with the crisis, while the Commission announced additional funding of €1.7bn.

A hot topic for this week's summit will be relations with Turkey. The country is refugees' first point of entry into Europe, and EU leaders are working with Ankara to increase cooperation on the matter. 

Ahead of the summit, EPP group Chair Manfred Weber stressed that his group, "supports the principle of a closer partnership with Turkey, but we must also be very clear to the Turkish government on the human rights situation and on the conflict with the Kurds."

Turkey has been embroiled in a decades-long conflict with its Kurdish minority, resulting in hundreds of deaths since it was reignited over the summer. The government has also been accused of numerous human rights abuses, including suppressing freedom of speech and unfairly imprisoning members of the opposition.

Commenting more generally, Weber said, "to solve the refugee crisis, more solidarity is needed in Europe. But we also need better common protection of our external borders, and more returns."

The European Parliament this week voted in favour of amending the 2015 budget to unlock €401.3m to help deal with the crisis.

Parliament's rapporteur on the issue, Eider Gardiazabal, explained, "this includes €100m to enhance solidarity and responsibility sharing among member states to handle the large number of incoming refugees. A further €300m will help fund neighbouring countries tackle the crisis in a more efficient and humane way. Lastly, €1.3m will be made available to increase the staffing levels at the agencies working on front line, such as Frontex."

She added that, "the current handling of the crisis by national governments has been wholly inadequate. We must be clear - we have the capacity to deal with this crisis. We have the political will and the resources needed to respond. Now, national governments must show the same urgency and use these resources to improve the situation on the ground."

ALDE group Vice-Chair Sophie In' t Veld had little hopes of a productive summit, saying, "those expecting a credible response from EU governments are set to be seriously disappointed. The Council's draft conclusions are conclusions for never-neverland. Not for the real world of today."

She noted that, "the majority of European citizens want to welcome refugees, they want Europe to show solidarity. But they also want to know Europe can handle the situation and that we are able to respond to the challenges. They want leaders to show determination and courage."

GUE/NGL MEP Patrick Le Hyaric stressed that, "refugees are human beings who have had to leave where they come from because of poverty, war and the scourge of terrorism. We need to face up to this human emergency. We need to attack the root causes of migration: war, terrorism and poverty. All of this needs greater coordination."

"The solution is not to turn our neighbours into border guards. We need to say 'yes' to compassion and solidarity with Turkish people, but take caution with [Turkish President] Recep Erdoğan", he added. 


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