Article written

  • on 07.10.2014
  • at 05:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

What next for refugees in Europe? 0

Brussels – The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) held a policy briefing at the European Parliament today to launch their latest report entitled ‘Rescued – What Next? Protection Seekers Stranded in Sicily’. ‘We have yet to see a coordinated response to migration in Europe’, said Stefan Kessler, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer for JRS Europe.

Migration has been a hot topic at the European Parliament over the past few days. During a three-hour hearing yesterday evening the EU High Representative-designate for Foreign affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, spoke at length about the issue of migration and called for greater cooperation with civil society. Today, JRSan international non-governmental organisation advocating human rights for refugees and forcibly displaced people around the world – held a policy briefing at the European Parliament to launch their latest report: ‘Rescued – What Next? Protection Seekers Stranded in Sicily’.

The report is based on a series of interviews with asylum seekers in Catania (Sicily), living both in the city itself and the CARA di Mineo reception centre. It denounces conditions in European reception centres and highlights the failure of the EU’s Common European Asylum System.

“We have yet to see a coordinated response to migration in Europe’, said Stefan Kessler. ‘Solidarity is a key EU value, but Member States have turned a cold shoulder to Italy and failed the migrants themselves.’

‘We want the Italian Presidency to take action, not just in Italy but on a European level’, stated Michael Schöpf, Regional Director of JRS Europe. The report underlines that intra-European solidarity and cooperation is needed to fund reception services, efficient asylum procedures and rescue operations. ‘Between 2007 and 2013, the EU allocated 700 million euro to asylum processing and over 1.8 billion for border controls’, added Mr. Kessler.

The testimonies are a blatant reminder of Europe’s failure to guarantee the fundamental principles of human dignity, safety, peace and freedom. ‘All [migrants] believe in Europe as a Mecca for democracy and human rights,’ explained Danielle Vella, researcher for JRS Europe and author of the report, ‘these are expectations we are morally obliged to live up to.’

It seems that EU Member States have no issue recognizing unsuccessful asylum requests, but fail to recognize the legitimacy of a positive decision when it has been issued by another European country. This was clearly stated by Nikiema Mahamadi, who emigrated from Burkina Faso and has been given subsidiary protection status in Italy. ‘With this document I cannot walk in all of Europe, I have to stay in Italy,’ he said, ‘and Italy alone cannot take care of all these people.’

‘The report should come as a wake-up call to anybody who reads it,’ underlines Mr. Schöpf. ‘We cannot just focus on border security. We have an international obligation to develop fair and effective asylum systems in Europe that actually protect people and help them re-build their lives.’

JRS operates in over fifty countries to provide education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services for over 950,000 people. In Italy, JRS is known as Centro Astalli and has offices in Rome, Trento, Palermo and Catania.

By Sofia Christensen –

Photo credit: JRS/Oscar Spooner

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