Yesterday, Eurodiaconia, along with its ecumenical partners (Conference of European Churches, Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, Act Alliance EU and EU CORD) have once again addressed messages EU top decision-makers on the migration and refugee crisis. The letter, sent to the Heads of State and Government ahead of an informal European council meeting taking place today, calls the leaders of the European Union and Member States to commit to the following:
- Consolidate and maintain concerted efforts to save the lives of refugees and migrants in jeopardy within and beyond EU borders and to increase the capacities for, preferably civilian, search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
- Put in place and finance legal and practical responses that respect the rights and dignity of refugees, migrants and persons seeking protection and improve their reception conditions – at least in line with EU minimum standards – and to ensure and ease the access to asylum procedures.
- To increase resources to source countries to support organizations who are responding to the needs of refugees and internally displaced people in the international humanitarian and development context.
- Considerably increase the places for the resettlement of refugees from different crisis regions to European states. EU Member States need to come up with credible figures proving their commitment to share the responsibility to protect, and the European Commission could – in addition to funding – offer expertise and policy coordination to encourage pledging of substantially higher numbers.
- To put in place policies which enable safe and legal pathways into Europe including issuing of humanitarian visas, lifting of visa requirements for persons fleeing from conflict zones (e.g. Syria, Iraq), easier and more generous family reunification for persons in need of or granted international protection, and humanitarian admission
- To support efforts of countries in the Middle East and other conflict regions as well as UNHCR to adequately support refugees.
- To advance plans for an accessible and known system of legal migration in countries of origin, thereby providing viable and humane alternatives to smuggling.
- Ensure sharing of responsibility for refugee reception between EU Member States, and relocation and reception of refugees from Greece, Hungary and Italy to other EU Member States going beyond the pledges reached in July 2015. With the rising figures particularly for Greece, speedy relocation of higher numbers will be necessary to reduce the lengthy and risky journeys across Europe.
- Consider the needs and aspirations of refugees: particularly vulnerable persons and children. Family unity must always be respected, therefore tracing of relatives and family reunification should be pursued as a matter of priority and bureaucratic hurdles abolished. Wishes and reasons of refugees to want to go to specific countries and places should wherever possible be considered.
- We wish to raise caution concerning any common EU approach on the national lists of Safe Countries of Origin. To declare a country of origin as “safe” because the vast majority of asylum applicants is not recognised as in need of protection may lead to unjustifiable exclusion of persons actually requiring protection. We uphold our view that fair, efficient and shorter asylum procedures are necessary, rather than accelerated ones with a high potential of error. The status as EU candidate country does not mean that all human rights standards are yet in place, and particularly where violent conflicts are raging, such a status would be against human rights obligations.
- To include one of the missing elements of the Common European Asylum System by making a proposal for the ‘Recognition of the International Protection Status throughout the Union’. Such a proposal must include the ability to move from one Member State to another for the purposes of employment and reduce the currently proposed lengthy obligations to stay in one member state after a protection has been accorded there.
- Maintain a regular dialogue and collaboration with Churches, Christian organizations, civil society organizations, and other religious organizations which contribute to cover immediate basic needs of migrants and refugees and support longer term integration of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Ensure such organizations are adequately resourced to provide services both in the short and long term.
 Council Directive 2013/33/EU of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection.
Please read the entire letter here.
Read the response from the French Government here.