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PACE delegation in Lampedusa: Europe must ‘share, not shirk, responsibility’ for arrivals

Strasbourg, 25.05.2011 – Europe must share, not shirk, responsibility for the large number of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants arriving by boat to the island of Lampedusa, a five-member delegation from the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has declared.

In a statement issued at the end of a two-day visit to the island (23-24 May), the delegation, headed by Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EDG), said: “The arrivals to Lampedusa are not the sole responsibility of a tiny island. There have been enough calls for responsibility-sharing and for solidarity. It is time that Europe acted on them.”

The delegation, which visited reception centres on Lampedusa and met those involved in managing the situation – at local, regional, national or international level – said it had been impressed by the “profound commitment” of those working to rescue and receive “boat people” who had risked their lives on unseaworthy and overcrowded boats to reach Europe.

“While these arrivals continue to constitute a huge challenge for this tiny island, it is clear that the crisis of the early days, when migrants were left to wander the streets without shelter, has been overcome. The situation today is much more under control.”

However, the delegation said reception facilities on Lampedusa were inadequate for longer stays – especially for vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children – and that transfers to better-equipped centres elsewhere in Italy should be carried out within days: “In particular, the situation of the Tunisians that have been on the island in detention-like conditions for almost three weeks should be dealt with as soon as possible.”

The delegation said it had been told that all measures have been taken to increase the capacity for transfers off the island – especially if numbers increase as the calmer summer weather enables more people to flee the conflict in Libya.

“Too many have already died at sea trying to reach Europe,” the delegation concluded. “Europe must try to protect asylum seekers and refugees in a way that they are not forced to risk their lives first.”

The Parliamentary Assembly is due to hold a series of debates on the large-scale arrivals on Europe’s southern shores at its summer plenary session in Strasbourg (20-24 June), including on the need for sharing of responsibility.