Sassoli: Do not criminalise those saving lives at sea. We need common rules on migration and asylum.


Extracts of the speech of the European Parliament President at the High-level Inter-parliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe

“We are holding this conference just a few days after another of the far too frequent tragedies in the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy. The NGO Open Arms showed us images of an exhausted mother in a rubber dinghy, crying and begging rescuers to look for her lost child at sea. That baby was six months old. His name was Joseph, he came from Guinea and died shortly after being taken aboard the Open Arms ship, waiting for help that unfortunately arrived too late.

“I want to talk about this child because behind the numbers we rightly talk about in the analysis of migration flows there are people and there are stories. People and stories that must be at the heart of any effective migration and asylum policy.

“I believe that the new political cycle gives us an historic opportunity to make a qualitative leap: to carry out effective and humane policies. I want to welcome the European Commission’s proposal for a Pact for Immigration and Asylum, a package of proposals that represents a foundation on which to build.

“Any effective EU migration and asylum system must be developed with certain principles in mind. We need a fair division of responsibility for the reception of people, for the identification operations, the examination of asylum requests, the reception of refugees, and carrying out repatriation. This implies a much greater commitment both in the relocation of refugees within the Union and in the resettlement of refugees from third countries. We need to define alternative legal pathways for protection, such as humanitarian visas.

“Secondly we need a system of shared rules for rescue at sea and disembarking people. We must not criminalise those who are saving lives because they fulfill not only an obligation enshrined in the international law of the sea, but also a moral obligation

“We need a more coordinated approach between police and intelligence forces to dismantle the criminal organisations who are leading the trafficking of people along all major routes, in collaboration with our partners in countries of origin and transit.

“Lastly, we need to open legal channels for immigration for work purposes based on the needs of our labor markets, so that our aging societies can continue to grow.”

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