EU leaders plot to strengthen Fortress Europe - Refugee Council
June 25, 2015

EU leaders plot to strengthen Fortress Europe

A leaked document has revealed that European leaders plan to tackle the growing humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean by building the walls of Fortress Europe even higher, making it ever more difficult and dangerous for refugees desperately trying to access safety.

As the Prime Minister today joins his European counterparts to discuss the issue at a Europe-wide summit, a leaked copy of the summit’s draft conclusions appeared to confirm that European leaders are failing to acknowledge the fact that the world is in the grip of the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Instead, the continent’s focus  seems to be on strengthening its border controls; trapping people in both countries of origin and transit countries.

With a record number of refugees being forced to flee brutal conflicts and tyranny, the Refugee Council is extremely alarmed at the prospect of Europe’s borders closing to people in desperate need of protection.

Focusing on strengthening border controls deliberately ignores the role Europe’s hostile immigration policies have played in creating the growing and shameful humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.

At the moment, it’s virtually impossible for refugees to travel to Europe safely and legally in order to seek protection. That’s why people are forced into the hands of smugglers. Making it yet more difficult for people to get here will only lead to people being forced to take even greater risks.

The leaked plans come following a grim warning from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that other countries around the world hosting large refugee populations were watching Europe’s approach to tackling the crisis closely.

Earlier this week, the British Government downgraded its contribution to the search and rescue mission focused on saving lives in the Mediterranean and instead pledged to focus on disrupting smuggling networks; a futile attempt to keep the problem out of sight and out of mind.

Elsewhere, the leaked document indicates that all EU countries have in principle agreed to participate in the resettlement of 20,000 refugees directly from conflict zones across Europe. However, it is unclear whether or not these places will be on top of European countries’ existing refugee resettlement pledges.

The Prime Minister recently announced that Britain would be ‘modestly’ increasing the number of resettlement places offered to Syria’s refugees following a campaign spearheaded by the Refugee Council.

Sadly, while life saving news, this pledge doesn’t go nearly far enough. We want to see David Cameron leading the way by offering to resettle thousands, not hundreds of refugees and by making it easier for refugees to reunite with their loved ones already living in safety in Britain.

Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said:

“European leaders have failed to acknowledge that the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean is of their own making. As the world plunges into one of the greatest refugee crises ever, Europe has responded by building its walls even higher, forcing refugees to take ever greater risks in their attempts to reach safety.

“As borders across Europe close to refugees it appears we are in danger of forgetting the lessons of history. During Europe’s darkest days, western nations shamefully turned boatloads of Jewish refugees away from safety.

“We cannot afford to make the same mistakes again by trying to keep this crisis out of sight and out of mind. We must respond with compassion and humanity, and offer alternative routes to safety for those who desperately need them.”