The member of the European Commission responsible for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, told MEPs said the EU has already set in train a response to the crisis in the Southern Mediterranean and said in the longer-term the aim is to launch a cooperation partnership with North African partners on migration. She called on Parliament and Council to finally agree on European Resettlement programme.
MEPs from the EPP, S&D and ALDE groups urged EU Member States to help deal with the migrant inflow crisis and asked Commissioner Malmström to activate the solidarity mechanism envisaged in the EU Treaty. An estimated 22,000 migrants fleeing unrest in North Africa have arrived on Europe’s southern borders since January.
The EU cannot rely purely on its border security agency Frontex to help Malta and Lampedusa cope with the migration crisis in the Mediterranean, the European Parliament said in a resolution. MEPs urged the Council to put in place an action plan for the resettlement of refugees but also stress the need for measures to reduce unemployment in migrants' countries of origin and of transit.
How can a single country like Italy, let alone Malta, cope with thousands of illegal immigrants fleeing from the humanitarian crisis in North Africa? "Frontex cannot be the main tool", argued MEPs, who want the Council to set up a burden-sharing action plan to help resettle refugees from the region and provide support for displaced persons.
This would mean invoking Article 80 of the EU Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which cites the principle of solidarity and fair burden-sharing among all Member States on policies relating to the management of border checks, asylum and immigration, including the financial dimension.
Under increasing pressure from Malta, Italy and MEPs to activate the Temporary Protection Directive, the emergency mechanism created by the EU in 2001 to be activated in case of a massive influx of displaced people, Commissioner Malmström said that she is considering this move but member states are still sceptical on its need.So far this mechanism has never been put in practice.
According to the Temporary Protection Directive, the EU Council will have to approve its application through a qualified majority following a proposal by the Commission. Once in place, ‘Libyan’ asylum seekers arriving in Malta and Italy can be granted temporary protection for up to two years and be resettled in other EU member states.
However, despite the insistent calls, Commissioner Malmström said that member states still do not feel the need that the time has come to trigger this mechanism.“Let me tell you clearly that until today no qualified majority exists among member states on the need to activate this directive,” she told MEPs.“I will continue monitoring the situation on a daily basis and we hope to be able to come to some kind of conclusion during next week’s Council meeting of Justice and Home Affairs.
However I repeat that until now, there is no qualified majority on the activation of this mechanism.”
During the debate on the current situation of migratory flows in the Southern Mediterranean, MEPs, particularly from Italy and Malta dominated the procedures with continuous calls for member states to show concrete solidarity and the Commission to take the initiative and act.
“Commissioner Malmström – you should show political leadership and propose the activation of the temporary protection directive,” Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil told the Commissioner, according to a report in The Times of Malta.“In Malta there is an emergency as 800 people arriving in 24 hours is the same as if 120,000 have arrived in France. The Commission should not base its analyses on mere number but in relative terms. On the other hand, EU member states should honour their promises and show real solidarity,” he said.
Maltese MEP John Attard Montalto (Party of European Socialists) also intervened inviting the Commission to state what it considers to be the right number of asylum seekers reaching Europe before activating the emergency solidarity clause, The Times of Malta reported.“We have an unfolding tragedy today and we need to act today. Let’s not be the man of yesterday,” he told Commissioner Malmström.
Last week Malta formally requested the Commission to propose the activation of the emergency mechanism. However, in its reply the Commission said that the conditions of a ‘mass influx’ have not yet been satisfied.