The mass arrival of irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to the southern shores of Europe continues apace. Already in 2006 around 72 000 immigrants entered Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta. In Italy alone, 3 000 immigrants arrived between 11 and 14 February.
The Parliamentary Assembly has been closely monitoring the phenomenon, and on several occasions delivered an opinion regarding the fate of these boat people, specifically through Recommendation 1645 (2004) on "Access to assistance and protection for asylum-seekers at European seaports and coastal areas"; Resolution 1521 (2006) on "Mass arrival of irregular migrants on Europe’s Southern shores"; and most recently, Resolution 1637 (2008) on "Europe's ‘boat-people’: mixed migration flows by sea into southern Europe”.
The severe tensions that emerged in January and February 2011 in the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, notably Tunisia and Egypt, and, in particular, the dire state of affairs in Libya could well bring about a serious escalation of the problem, with major repercussions on human rights.
Europe as a whole needs to help find negea solution to this humanitarian crisis and must tackle the economic political and criminal conditions that have contributed to its creation, and remain in the background.
Whether they are responding to the current emergency or taking action at a structural level, it is unthinkable for national and international actors not to co-operate in this area, a point made by the President of the Assembly in a speech delivered on behalf of the parliamentarians of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
The Assembly has to give urgent consideration to this issue again and invite international organisations and national parliaments and governments to prioritise the management of the crisis and its consequences, particularly dealing with the exponential increase in the flow of irregular immigration on Europe's southern shores.