European foreign and defence ministers are today discussing a proposal made by the Italian Prime Minister in a 'migration compact non-paper'* to Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk.
The proposal, which was welcomed by both the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, uses the EU-Turkey deal as a model to create similar deals with African countries of origin and transit for refugees.
The proposal states that “the recent EU-Turkey agreement represents the first attempt to initiate a large-scale cooperation with a third country and has shown that it is possible to use all existing tools and budget in an innovative way”.
Other controversial aspects of the proposal include EU support to return refugees from countries of transit to countries of origin, constant European law enforcement presence in the Saharan belt, reorientation of financial instruments for external action (including the European Development Fund) towards migration control, EU support for the supply border surveillance equipment and technologies in third countries, EU support for screening centres in third countries of “refugees and economic migrants”.
Italian MEP, Barbara Spinelli, criticised the document presented by the Italian Government: “From the outset, the proposal of the Italian Prime Minister to the European Commission and the European Council completely neglects the fact that the agreement signed by the EU and Turkey may be illegitimate under EU and international law.”
“Worse, the EU-Turkey agreement is presented as a positive model for future arrangements which could be extended to the African countries which are part of the Khartoum and Rabat processes (including states ruled by dictators such as Eritrea or Sudan), and financed with EU funds.
“The proposal of the Italian Prime Minister disregards the real situation of refugees who are repatriated to Turkey, which Erdoğan's government rejects in large numbers, sending them back to war zones. The proposal doesn't even mention the obligation of both the EU member states and third countries to respect human rights and the principle of 'non-refoulement',” Spinelli concludes.
French MEP, Marie-Christine Vergiat, added: “The proposals made by Matteo Renzi which are discussed today by the ministers of foreign affairs and defence are unacceptable and dangerous.”
“Should we remind Renzi that the EU-Turkey deal that he describes shamefully as 'innovative' has been denounced as a breach of international and European law by all defenders of human rights including NGOs and the UNHCR? Is the EU going to keep disregarding the Geneva Convention and the duty of solidarity, hospitality and protection for all those fleeing conflict, violence, persecution and misery?
Vergiat highlighted the stark contrast between European leaders' policy approaches and their consequences: “This proposal comes today as almost 400 people have drowned in the Mediterranean overnight. And exactly one year after the most dramatic shipwreck that took place in the Mediterranean, in which around 850 migrants were killed. The cynicism of European leaders has no limits. In contrast to the message of peace and humanity from the Pope during his visit to Lesbos over the weekend, this is the only response they can come up with.”
* View the 'Migration compact non-paper': http://www.statewatch.org/news/2016/apr/eu-refugee-italian-non-papermigration-compact.pdf
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