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ASYLUM SEEKERS AND REFUGEES: SHARING RESPONSIBILITIES IN EUROPE

Rapporteur Mr Christopher Chope

Speech by Mr Antti Kaikkonen at PACE, Strasbourg, 21st June 2011

 

Honourable Chair,

 

The report ‘Asylum seekers and refugees: sharing responsibilities in Europe’ is very topical. I want to thank Mr Chope for the excellent work he has done with this issue. The report highlights many problems related to the asylum seekers and refugees. It not only gives questions, but also concrete proposals how to solve them.

 

The recent conflicts in Tunisia and in Libya have caused the people of the countries huge human sufferings. The continuing unstable situation leads to a large-scale emigration from the conflict countries especially to Europe. The mass arrivals have been going on for a decade but the number of the arriving people has even exploded lately. Especially difficult the situation is in Italy, Greece and Malta. Even though the number of asylum claims on average in Europe is not untenable, are the responsibilities shared unequally. Malta as a small country has relatively big burden to carry. The disproportionate circumstances lead to tensions across Europe. The frontline states feel that they have been left alone with the constantly growing amounts of asylum claims.

 

Dublin system’s aim is to define the country responsible for the application for asylum left by a citizen of a Third World country. Even though the initial aim of the system might be reasonable, the actual implementation is not always fair. As Mr Chope mentions in the report, the system is in need of reform. Otherwise the situation continues unfair for the frontline countries like Greece and Italy.

 

The main point is the fair sharing of responsibilities. All member states of the Council of Europe should participate in the programmes of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The uneven distribution of the refugees requires measures from all of the countries. Compared to United States and Canada, European countries have resettled relatively small amount of refugees. I want to stress that this is a fact that too often seems to be forgotten.

 

More cooperation is also needed on external borders. First and foremost it is important to protect the distressed people from smugglers. I warmly support the idea of coastguard vessels which would identify the people with potential protection needs. The European Union does have both financial and material resources to identify vessels leaving North Africa with migrants. Frontex has an access to satellite intelligence.

It should definitely be more used in the Council of Europe member states.

 

Some countries like Greece, can not guarantee effective and tolerable systems for the asylum application process. As long as Greece doesn’t get more resources for handling the asylum applications and taking care of the asylum seekers, the situation gets worse and worse. All the member states of Council of Europe could provide help with border controls, with asylum determination et cetera.

 

The question behind this all is why the people need to leave their home countries. Council of Europe member states should, as mentioned in the report, tackle the root causes of flows of asylum seekers. If possible, the people should be helped in their home countries. If the people don't have a possibility to stay in their home countries they should be guaranteed a fair and swift asylum process.