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Italy: President praises efforts to save migrants in distress at sea

Strasbourg, 11.10.2013 – At the end of an official visit to Italy (10 and 11 October 2013), Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), praised Italy’s efforts to save the lives of migrants and refugees in distress at sea, and in particular the exceptional and tireless work of the coastguards.

He also paid tribute to the commitment of the Italian authorities at the highest level to address the human rights problems in Italy and was particularly impressed by the statement of the President of the Republic to both chambers of parliament regarding the very complicated issue of prison overcrowding which, according to the PACE President, “showed both remarkable courage and political will to find a solution to this difficult issue”.

“Migration flows are not a problem for Italy alone, nor just for the countries on the southern borders of Europe. This is a problem which concerns us all, not only in Europe but also beyond. Can we consider Lampedusa today to be just an Italian border? The answer is no, it is clearly a European one. We have to take immediate measures to prevent the recurrence of tragedies such as the one we witnessed last week in Lampedusa,” said Jean-Claude Mignon.

However, he also pointed out that “it is on the other side of the Mediterranean, in the countries of origin and transit, that this problem needs to be sorted out. We cannot continue to allow these people to take to the seas, risking their lives on makeshift boats. There will be no perfect or miracle solutions, but we must save these lives. I call on the European Union and all the countries of Europe to take not just symbolic steps but real practical and effective measures, including, if need be, reform of the Dublin system. It’s not just a question of money. We need genuine common European political will and greater solidarity.”

At his private audience with Pope Francis, the President placed great emphasis on human well-being and on human rights, referring to the priorities of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The refugee situation was also discussed. The President invited Pope Francis to address the Parliamentary Assembly at one of its future part-sessions.