31 October 2013
Bureau declaration on the tragic drowning of refugees in the Mediterranean
Document adopted by the Bureau of the Congress on 31 October 2013
The Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe,
notes with dismay:
- that, for years, the Mediterranean has been a place of death for thousands of human beings, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, fleeing their respective countries, which are often the scene of civil wars, persecution, disease and famine, in an attempt to escape from death, build a future or join friends and close family members living in a European country;
- that local and regional communities are often called upon to intervene as a matter of urgency without possessing the necessary technical and economic resources;
- that tragedies are now taking place with horrifying frequency on and near the coasts of Lampedusa as well as along the coasts of the Mediterranean region and in particular around Malta; that the tragedy which occurred a few weeks ago, and which cost the lives of 370 people, was the fruit of despair, one of many similar, increasingly intolerable, events and that the number of migrants who have perished in the Strait of Sicily in the last ten years is estimated at 6 200 ;
- that Europe must shoulder collective responsibility in this area by agreeing and implementing, in a co-ordinated manner, policies of the European Union and its member states providing for solidarity between member states and guaranteeing funds for the countries most affected by these arrivals, and policies for the reception and integration of those who are granted asylum;
- that the coastal countries from which migrants set out should be approached in order to ensure that international institutions are able to work on the spot in consultation with the relevant local and national authorities to guarantee the possibility of requesting asylum;
- that, in addition to the creation of an essential “humanitarian corridor”, action should be stepped up to counter, firmly and continuously, the transnational criminal organisations which grow rich on this human “trafficking”;
- that it is time to rewrite the laws governing migratory movements towards Europe, a destination for which the coasts of Lampedusa in Italy are the first point of entry, that a common immigration strategy and policy are urgently needed, given the impossibility, under the existing rules, of responding to what is a real humanitarian emergency;
- that migration from the coasts of North Africa is a European problem and that Italy cannot be left alone to manage this problem or to guarantee full respect for dignity in the way migrants are treated. It is more necessary than ever that Europe should share this responsibility;
- its profound condolences for the victims and its solidarity with the survivors of the tragic sinkings off the coasts of Lampedusa;
- its full solidarity with the mayor and inhabitants of Lampedusa and with all the other affected municipalities of the region;
asks the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe:
- to support legislative change and European Union policies that lead to the adoption of common rules on immigration and the right of asylum, promoting the lawful entry, safety, reception and integration of migrants;
- to work with the European Union to ensure that the issue of immigration and the right of asylum is the subject of European policies, thus leading to the joint management of migration based on shared responsibilities and on a gradual opening up to legal immigration.
calls on the local and regional authorities of the countries that are facing this type of tragedy:
- to co-ordinate their activities and reception initiatives in favour of migrants and refugees;
- to intensify direct contacts between the towns of departure of migrants and refugees in order to prevent the occurrence of tragedies such as those which have occurred recently along the coast of Sicily.
calls on the local and regional authorities of all the Council of Europe member states:
- to intensify direct contacts between local authorities and regions, including on a cross-border and transnational basis, in order to offer possibilities of reception to the populations of migrants and refugees facing the tragic events of recent days both on sea and land borders.