Immigrants packed close to a small inflatable boat trying to cross the English Channel near the Dover Strait, the world’s busiest shipping, on September 7, 2020.
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European countries must meet to resolve the issue of migration, the head of the European Commission said on Wednesday, telling member states that “saving lives at sea is not optional.”
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who addressed the issue of migration in his speech on the EU state on Wednesday, said “migration is an issue that has been discussed long enough.” She called on the bloc to overcome “deep divisions” caused by the migration crisis in 2015 and to come together to help the member states most “exposed to migration”.
“Countries that meet their legal and moral obligations or are more vulnerable than others must be able to rely on the solidarity of others across the EU,” she said.
Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 tried to hundreds of thousands of migrants, mainly from war-torn Syria, trying to reach Europe, often with tragic consequences.
Five years later, and the number of people trying to make the crossing continues to increase, although not nearly as high as in 2015. In that year alone, it is estimated that one million migrants entered the EU, according to the UN, by almost 4,000 feared drowning in an attempt to reach Europe by sea.
The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that so far this year, 48,529 immigrants have arrived in Europe, mostly by sea. The number is far lower than in previous years, when the coronavirus pandemic acts as a suppressor of migration; In January 2020, the IOM reported that 110,669 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2019, the sixth year in a row that at least 100,000 arrivals were registered on three Mediterranean routes.
The migration crisis of 2015 caused “deep divisions” within the bloc and “scars (there are) that are still healing today”, von der Leyen acknowledged on Wednesday, urging all member states to “address” the challenges posed by migration.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will give her first speech on the Union’s speech in 2020 on 16 September in Brussels, Belgium.
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Several countries in Eastern Europe closed borders and refused to accept quotas for immigrants, after the EU devised a migration migration scheme to liberate countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy, where most immigrants arrived, and still do, to this day, with many in immigrant camps, or reception centers located in southern Europe, while their asylum applications are being processed.
Tempere has frayed both in reception centers that can be crowded and unhygienic, and within the cities and islands (including Greek islands, Sicily and Malta), where centers are primarily located. Locals and governments have also been frustrated by what they see as a lack of progress and solidarity on the migration issue.
The thorny issue of wandering camps returned last week after a fire broke out through the Moria Reception and Identification Center in Lesvos.
The fire left 12,000 migrants and refugees homeless, including an estimated 4,000 children, the UN said, urging EU states to work together as soon as possible to “relieve the islands and help Greece.”
The Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is scheduled to launch a long-awaited migration pact next week with the emphasis expected to be on preventing migrants from entering the EU, according to the EU Observer.
Migration organizations and NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, are already warning the EU that its policies must focus on human rights.
“The European Commission should ensure that its new ‘Pact on Migration and Asylum’, expected on 23 September, reflects the real experience of the devastation and human misery on Lesbos. The Commission and EU countries should commit to border management that respects human dignity and the right to seek asylum, while ensuring a fair distribution of responsibilities between EU member states, “Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
Von der Leyen signaled the EU’s direction for migration, saying that a clear distinction should be made between migrants who “have the right to stay and those who do not”, and the Commission will take steps to combat traffickers, strengthen external borders, deepening external partnerships and ensuring “that people have the right to be integrated and make them feel welcome.”
Federico Soda, migration expert and IOM’s mission chief in Libya, a country that sees hundreds of migrants trying to reach the sea to Europe, characterized the migration situation around Europe as “sleeping” rather than loose.
Syrian irregular migrant family, whose boats were flooded, rescues after being stranded on the islet while trying to reach the Greek side of the Evros River in Edirne, Turkey on 29 February 2020.
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“If you measure it in terms of people reaching your limits, then the crisis is ‘over’,” Soda said, “but if you measure it in terms of people dying, suffering and being abused, it is by no means And if you look politically in relation to the European Union, I do not think it has passed in any way. ”
“We need to look at it from the European side in terms of what progress has been made within the Union to develop policies that are appropriate for this type of population movement that will inevitably (continue),” he said.
“Even today, the main countries that bear the burden of these arrivals are mostly very dissatisfied with the response from the rest of the European Member States … It has been removed, set aside, but it is by no means resolved. ”
Soda said Europe needed to tackle migration and asylum policies now as well as work with other nations to address inequalities within – and between countries – that spurred migration, which he admitted was a “long-term process.”
“At the moment, Europe’s approach is that its borders are closed and we just do not think it’s sustainable … You do not have to be a genius to find out that the geography of the European continent will continue to get people to to come and knock on the doors in an irregular, undocumented way.And it’s south (Europe) now, but it may be east in the future.And the reality is that these issues in the EU are still very, very much a point of great political tension . “