People are more important
Dr Katrine Camilleri, a controversial human rights lawyer who was recently awarded the Nansen Award by UNHCR in recognition of her dedicated work helping refugees, discusses Europe's migration policy. She says that the fact that Europe receives large numbers of migrants cannot justify treatment that falls below internationally recognised human rights standards. From The Guardian Comment:
Although modern-day migrants decide to leave their homeland, this all too often implies an almost total loss of power over their lives and futures, now shaped by forces over which they have no control. They are at the mercy of the elements and, possibly more frightening, of the powers that be, whose main concern, it seems, is to keep them out. It matters little that a significant proportion of them may need international protection, that they will face serious harm if sent back home. The individual needs of the migrants are all but forgotten as states focus on protecting their borders.
All too often, particularly during the summer, migrants are left stranded, making desperate calls from sinking boats, clinging to tuna pens or crowded on board the vessel that rescued them from certain death, while states wrangle over who should accept them. Those who make it to our shores are often forgotten, held for months in over-crowded detention centres with poor services, while they await the outcome of their asylum applications.
In an attempt to coordinate border control more effectively and avoid "humanitarian tragedies" Frontex, the EU border agency, conducted patrols off Malta and Spain last summer. During the first phase of the Nautilus II operation off Malta alone, more than a thousand lives were saved and more than 700 illegal immigrants were intercepted. The Hera III mission off Spain reportedly intercepted a further 1,500 illegal immigrants trying to reach southern Europe.
These statistics beg the question: what happened to the migrants intercepted? Where any sent back to their point of departure? If so, was any effort made to determine whether they were in need of international protection before they were refused access to EU territory? Were they forced to turn back to a place where they could obtain protection if they needed it? Listening to the testimonies of asylum seekers in Malta's detention centres, one cannot but be concerned about the fate of any migrants forced to turn back...