Sarah addresses the European Parliament about new fundamental rights commissioner and Frontex

September 15, 2009 12:00 PM
By Sarah Ludford in the European Parliament

Sarah Ludford (ALDE). - Mr President, the British press, assisted to such a conclusion by paranoid and Euro-sceptic MEPs, has scaremongered that a future Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, which Mr Barroso has accepted at the proposal of the ALDE Group, will force the UK to accept more asylum-seekers from across Europe.

This is not true. As Vice-President Barrot has confirmed, the pilot project to assist Malta is voluntary and the proposed scheme to resettle UNHCR-approved refugees directly from outside Europe would also be non-compulsory.

No element of EU policy has ever involved quotas or compulsion on national acceptance of migrants. However, what we do try and get is voluntary solidarity, and I do hope that a future Fundamental Rights Commissioner will make a contribution to stopping migrants meeting their death in the Mediterranean.

Ten years ago next month, the EU set the goal of a common asylum system and coordinated migration policies. Despite some considerable efforts, especially by the European Commission with the support of MEPs, we are clearly a long way from that.

The top priority is to get some proper management of the flows, which are usually what are called 'mixed flows' of refugees and job-seeking migrants, so as to distinguish the two. This is to give confidence to the European public of proper management as well as to stop loss of life and to ensure protection for those qualifying for it.

If people in frail boats are pushed back out to sea and never assessed for protection, none of those goals will be achieved. I am shocked to hear from Commissioner Barrot that Member States do not apply maritime law uniformly. Such disarray is unacceptable. Frontex must be properly resourced and respect human rights of individuals. Those individuals must be allowed to land and be assessed for asylum status and sorted into refugees and those not qualified to stay.

EU Member States must, if necessary, be taken to the European Court of Justice for failing to do so, and the idea, as my colleague Sonia Alfano has said, that Libya is capable of doing that job instead is completely outrageous given its gross human rights abuses.

A rational European immigration policy would involve some common framework of criteria for economic migration within which member states accepting such migrants can operate under their own decisions on the numbers they take. What we need is the coordination, the common standards, the common framework and then the solidarity as well.