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Giacomo Santini: ‘Europe must fulfil its destiny as a land of asylum’

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, Giacomo Santini (EPP/CD), President of the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, today made the following statement:

“From time immemorial, conflicts throughout the world have forced people to flee from their countries in millions.

As politicians, we often hear our fellow citizens say that Europe cannot receive all the world’s refugees. They are right of course, and moreover this is far from being the case. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Asia hosts over half the world’s refugees, and Africa almost 20 per cent.

Europe should be proud of its vocation as a land of asylum and its tradition of welcome. To remain true to this vocation, it should not lag behind the rest of the world which would be a failure to live up to its responsibilities.

Our continent must also demonstrate greater solidarity towards the other regions of the world. The resettlement programmes conducted by the UNHCR are an effective mechanism for ensuring better distribution of the burden and showing better solidarity. In 2010 however, European States only resettled 5 824 refugees, whereas the United States resettled 54 077 and Canada 6 732 on its own. The figures speak for themselves: Europe can do better.

The brutal present situation in Syria, on Europe’s doorstep, is a cause of great anxiety. Despite our continuing condemnations of these atrocities, we are witnessing a humanitarian disaster of which thousands of refugees are also victims. This situation has immediate implications for Turkey and the other States near Syria, but the rest of Europe is also concerned.

Turkey has shown great generosity by maintaining since the start of the conflict an open border policy towards all Syrian refugees. Today over 27 000 Syrians have found shelter there. These refugees, like so many others, do not wish to leave their country, but they have no choice! Their one desire is to be able to return home in complete safety.

On this day, I call upon Europe to display greater solidarity regarding refugees’ suffering and their needs. One country, or a group of countries – whether Turkey, Greece, Italy or Malta – cannot be expected to meet this challenge alone."