A time for action, not words: more than 160 NGOs call on EU to lead by values in migration response

A time for action, not words: more than 160 NGOs call on EU to lead by values in migration response

8 March 2017 

EU leaders must live up to their commitment to European values in responding to migration and stop copying xenophobic populist trends, 162 NGOs have said today in a joint statement.

The organisations – including Oxfam and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland – are calling for strong leadership in actions, not just in words, which upholds the ideals of equality, liberty and human rights that have been the founding principles of the European Union for 60 years.

The statement comes ahead of this week’s meeting of the European Council in Brussels and follows months of decisions by EU leaders aimed at shutting migration routes across the Mediterranean at any cost, including backing an Italian deal with Libya which will see the EU taking part in and financing migration control in Libya.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “It is time for EU leaders to go beyond their repeated rhetoric of respect for human rights and dignity and actually deliver on their commitments to defend and protect men, women and children on the move.

“In our work with refugees and migrants in Greece, Italy and the Balkans, as well as beyond Europe’s shores, we see the terrible impact that European migration policies are having on the lives of people forced to flee. Closing borders and stopping people from reaching Europe – these decisions have life and death consequences. Europe is perfectly capable of hosting more refugees and migrants and treating them with dignity and respect for human rights – all that is needed is the political will and courage to do so.”

Edel McGinley from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, said: “Europe’s focus on border closures and push backs stands in stark contrast to the widespread solidarity shown by ordinary Europeans towards people fleeing war, persecution, danger and extreme poverty. In Ireland, we’ve witnessed communities welcoming refugees and migrants with warmth and generosity, opening up their homes and lives to help. EU governments must not undermine this solidarity but match it proactively with courage and determination to protect the lives of the most vulnerable.”

According to the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition who welcomed this joint letter, governments are failing to uphold their obligations under international and European law and are instead doing their utmost to keep people in need out of Europe and out of sight through migration deals with countries like Turkey, Libya and other states in Africa. European authorities are also pushing to expedite asylum procedures in order to facilitate the deportation of asylum seekers. As a result, many people are unable to submit their asylum applications in a fair and effective manner, or access adequate legal assistance.

Mr Clarken said: “Desperate people seeking safety from wars and persecution are forced to take dangerous journeys across Europe, often at the mercy of traffickers and smugglers. EU member states must make a drastic U-turn and deliver sustainable, long-term migration policies that guarantee respect for people’s rights rather than pushing them into danger. These policies include expanding safe and regular pathways to Europe. The Irish Government must play its part by expanding the humanitarian visa programme and increasing options for family reunification so that some of the world’s most vulnerable people have access to safe and regular routes to Europe.”

To read the joint letter to EU leaders in full, click here.



CONTACT: Spokespeople from Oxfam Ireland and other organisations are available for interview. To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact: Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Notes to editors:

·          Read the full letter to EU leaders, listing all 162 organisations that signed it.

·          This action is supported by the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition  Refugee and Migrant Coalition: ActionAid Ireland; Community Work Ireland; Christian Aid; Comhlámh; Crosscare; Conference of the Religious of Ireland; Cultúr Migrants Centre; Dóchas; Doras Luimní; ENAR Ireland; Immigrant Council of Ireland; Irish Missionary Union; Irish Refugee Council; Jesuit Refugee Service; Mercy International Association; Migrant Rights Centre Ireland; Mayo Intercultural Action ; Nasc  Ireland; National Women’s Council of Ireland ; Oxfam Ireland; Trócaire ; World Vision Ireland

·          A deal with Libya, struck by Italy and which received backing by EU member states in February in the Malta declaration, exposes people to suffering and death.

·          In October 2016, Oxfam published a media briefing paper “Causing suffering and problems - Europe’s approach to migration”, detailing the various failures of the EU’s migration response.

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