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Access to Justice

EU needs to treat the unprecedented European migration crisis as a humanitarian emergency

Trócaire has called on the EU to treat the unprecedented European migration crisis as a humanitarian emergency and commit to providing an urgent response that is legal, dignified and compassionate.

Speaking today (Thursday 27th August 2015), Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire said:

“The failure to adequately respond to the current mass movement of people into Europe represents the most serious displacement crisis the European Union has faced in recent times. If this crisis was happening in another part of the world, it would have been officially declared a humanitarian emergency by the UN, ensuring that humanitarian standards to save lives, protect those most vulnerable and reduce suffering were applied and resources made available to meet their needs.

 “EU Member States must honour their legal responsibility to protect refugees coming into Europe, who are risking their lives to escape the worst forms of war and oppression. EU Member States continue to disagree on coordinated action and are responding to this crisis in terms of security and border control. Hungary, for example, is constructing a 13-foot high fence along its 109-mile border with Serbia to keep people out.

 “Increasingly desperate refugees and asylum seekers are facing heavy-handed responses in France, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia and innocent lives are being lost at sea. With no agreed coordinated approach among Member States, Trócaire regards this delay as deliberate, disregarding the suffering of people essentially in legal limbo. It is totally inhumane and unacceptable.

Refugee Camp in Lebanon's Bekka ValleyCaption: The Qab Elials camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s Bekka Valley. Fifty families currently live in tents in the informal camp. (Photo: Patrick Nicholson / Caritas Internationalis)


 “EU Member States must ensure special protection for women and children and prioritise keeping families together. We must remind ourselves that behind the statistics, there are extremely vulnerable people who have already been through war, loss and devastation.”

Éamonn Meehan continued: “Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. EU Member States have a legal responsibility to grant protection for refugees, ensuring safe passage and resettlement with full respect for their basic human rights.

“EU Member States must commit to collective legal action to protect the rights of those who require protection, either as refugees or asylum seekers. Detention, violence and withholding access to basic assistance will not stop desperate people from trying to seek refuge in Europe.

“Safe passage and regular channels of migration are needed as a matter of urgency. Within EU member states, refugees should be provided with assistance and protection to which they are legally entitled including shelter, food, sanitation, protection from further conflict and violence and clear information on entitlements and procedures.

“Policies must not focus on criminalising those who have the right to seek asylum from persecution.

 “At the heart of its response, the EU must remember the treacherous, life-threatening conditions these people are fleeing and provide sanctuary. In Syria over 7m people have been forced to abandon their homes and a further 4m Syrian people have become refugees in neighbouring countries. The EU should take its example from countries like Lebanon, a country half the size of Munster, which has taken in 1.5 million refugees.”

Éamonn Meehan concluded: “Ireland, as a country with a strong track record in human rights and humanitarian response, should do a lot more to respond to this crisis. I commend the work of the Irish Naval Service. However, in isolation, this contribution is not enough. Ireland must take action and be a strong advocate for comprehensive responses from European Union Member States. Ireland has recently agreed to take up to 600 refugees. Trócaire believes that this figure is wholly inadequate and that Ireland should not wait until the EU proposes a final allocation in December. We should show leadership through accepting a greater share of people seeking refuge without further delay.”

Trócaire is supporting Caritas partners in Europe in response to the growing needs of extremely vulnerable people and has offered support to Caritas Serbia, which is responding on the ground to the needs of refugees arriving in Serbia. Trócaire also works with partners in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Somalia, which are burdened by protracted conflicts and in Jordan and Lebanon, countries which are hosting 1.75 million Syrian refugees.

Read our full policy briefing paper on this issue: European Migration Crisis: Failing Policies, Fatal Journeys


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