The proposal launched in the European Parliament today suggests deals with multiple African nations, including Sudan, whose president is the subject of an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, and Eritrea, whose government is accussed of crimes against humanity by the United Nations.

Italian MEP, Barbara Spinelli, began her intervention in plenary by refuting the Commission's claim that the Turkey agreement saved lives: “The deaths have basically just moved elsewhere. There were thousands who drowned in the Mediterranean in May.”

She slammed the Commission's proposal, stating that it is “basically a badly disguised return agreement”.

Also criticising the Commission's suggestion to link the deals to aid for the African countries involved, Spinelli added: “The aid you promise is a 'diktat' – either they keep refugees in their internment camps or they get no aid.”

“The European Union is systematically breaching international law, and with this proposal, the Commission is stepping into line with the extreme right.”

French MEP, Marie-Christine Vergiat, put the situation in context: “The world is faced with a humanitarian crisis. In 2015, there were 28 million newly displaced people fleeing natural disasters and conflicts. That’s the reality according to the UNHCR.”

“One million of them came to Europe, and here the solidarity of some of the world's richest countries amounted to almost nothing. Among the 160,000 people who were supposed to be relocated, only around 1,500 people actually have been.”  

Vergiat criticised the Commission's claim that the proposal, along with the EU-Turkey deal, will stem the flow of refugees into Europe: “This is not going to stop migratory flows, there will be more. Four thousand people have drowned already this year. The people smugglers' business model has not been broken, they’re just adapting.”

Swedish MEP, Malin Björk, concluded: “This proposal is not about immigration, it is about stopping the refugees and mobilising all possible means – economic, trade, visas and military – to achieve this end.”

“European citizens do not expect a cynical closed Europe, prisons for refugees and deals with anti-democratic authoritarian regimes in third countries. We expect a serious discussion that is based on how various policies can be used in combination so that we are better able to assume our responsibilities and accept more refugees in Europe.

“The Commission should take this proposal back to the drafting table.”


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