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  ‘Saving lives at sea is not optional’: EU chief calls for unity amid warnings migration crisis is not over

  • EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that “migration is an issue that has been discussed long enough.”
  • The migration crisis in 2015 caused “deep divisions” within the bloc and “scars (that are) still healing today,” von der Leyen acknowledged Wednesday, calling on all member states to “step up” to the challenges posed by migration.
  • Migration charities and NGOs, like Human Rights Watch, are already warning the EU that its policies have to focus on human rights.
Migrants packed tightly onto a small inflatable boat attempt to cross the English Channel near the Dover Strait, the world's busiest shipping lane, on September 07, 2020.
Migrants packed tightly onto a small inflatable boat attempt to cross the English Channel near the Dover Strait, the world’s busiest shipping lane, on September 07, 2020.
Luke Dray | Getty Images News | Getty Images

European countries must come together to address the issue of migration, the head of the European Commission said Wednesday, telling member states that “saving lives at sea is not optional.”

Addressing the issue of migration in her State of the Union address on Wednesday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “migration is an issue that has been discussed long enough.” She called on the bloc to overcome “deep divisions” caused by the 2015 migration crisis and to pull together to help the member states most “exposed” to migration.

“Those countries that fulfill their legal and moral duties or are more exposed than others must be able to rely on the solidarity of others in our whole European Union,” she said.

Europe’s migration crisis of 2015 saw hundreds of thousands of migrants, mainly from war-torn Syria, attempt to reach Europe, often with tragic consequences.

Five years on and the number of people attempting to make the crossing remains elevated, although not nearly as high when compared to 2015. In that year alone, an estimated 1 million migrants entered the EU, according to the United Nations, with almost 4,000 feared to have drowned in the attempt to reach Europe by sea.

READ  A breakdown of Europe’s €1.5bn migration spending in Nigeria

The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that, so far this year, there have been 48,529 migrant arrivals to Europe, predominantly by sea. The number is far lower than previous years with the coronavirus pandemic acting as a dampener on migration; In January 2020, the IOM reported that 110,669 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2019, marking the sixth straight year that at least 100,000 arrivals were recorded on three Mediterranean sea routes.

The migration crisis in 2015 caused “deep divisions” within the bloc and “scars (that are) still healing today,” von der Leyen acknowledged Wednesday, calling on all member states to “step up” to the challenges posed by migration.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her first State of the Union speech of 2020 on 16 September in Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her first State of the Union speech of 2020 on 16 September in Brussels, Belgium.
Jonathan Raa | NurPhoto via Getty Images

 

Several countries in eastern Europe closed borders and refused to accept quotas of migrants after the EU devised a migrant relocation scheme to relieve countries like Greece, Spain and Italy where most migrants arrived, and still do, to this day, with many in migrant camps, or reception centers, located in southern Europe while their asylum claims are processed.

Tempers have frayed both in reception centers which can be crowded and unsanitary and within the towns and islands (including Greek islands, Sicily and Malta) where centers are primarily located. Locals and governments have also been left frustrated at what they see as a lack of progress and solidarity over the issue of migration too.

The thorny issue of migrant camps returned to the fore last week after a fire ripped through the Moria Reception and Identification Center in Lesbos.

The fire left 12,000 migrants and refugees homeless, including an estimated 4,000 children, the UN said as it called for EU states to work together urgently to “de-congest the islands and assist Greece.”

The Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is scheduled to launch a long-awaited migration pact next week with the emphasis expected to be on preventing migrants from entering the EU, according to EU Observer.

READ  Oyetola silent as Osun indigene held captive in Lebanon cries for help

Migration charities and NGOs, like Human Rights Watch, are already warning the EU that its policies have to focus on human rights.

“The European Commission should ensure that its new ‘Pact on Migration and Asylum,’ expected on September 23, reflects the right lessons learned from the devastation and human misery on Lesbos. The Commission and EU member states should commit to border governance that respects human dignity and the right to seek asylum while ensuring a fair distribution of responsibility among EU member states,” Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Moral dilemmas

Signaling the EU’s direction on migration, von der Leyen said a clear distinction had to be made between migrants that “have the right to stay, and those who do not” and the Commission would take steps to combat people smugglers, strengthen external borders, deepen external partnership and to ensure “that people who have the right to stay are integrated and made to feel welcome.”

Federico Soda, migration expert and the IOM’s Chief of Mission in Libya, a country that sees hundreds of migrants attempts to make the sea passage to Europe, characterized the migration situation surrounding Europe as “dormant” rather than resolved.

Syrian irregular migrant family, whose boats were flooded, rescue after they were stranded on the islet while they are trying to reach Greek side of Evros River in Edirne, Turkey on February 29, 2020.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

“If you measure it in terms of people reaching your borders then the crisis has ‘passed’,” Soda said, “but if you measure it in terms of people dying, suffering and being abused it’s by no means passed. And if you look at it politically in terms of the European Union I also don’t think it’s by any means passed.”

READ  Covid 19: Malawi yet to shut borders as Police boss speaks on containment strategy

“You have to look at it from the European side in terms of what progress has been made within the union to develop policies that are adequate for these types of population movements that will inevitably (continue),” he said.

“Even to this day, the main countries that are bearing the brunt of these arrivals are mostly very dissatisfied with the response from the rest of the European member states … It’s been brushed over, put aside, but it’s by no means resolved.”

Soda said Europe needed to address migration and asylum policies now, as well as working with other nations to address inequalities within — and between countries — that spurred migration, which he conceded was a “long-term process.”

“At the moment Europe’s approach is that its borders are closed and we just don’t think that’s sustainable … You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the geography of the European continent is going to continue to have people coming and knocking at its doors in an irregular, undocumented way. And it’s the south (of Europe) now but it could be the east in future. And the reality is that these issues within the EU are still very, very much a point of great political tension.”

Culled from CNBC

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Dominican Republic, IOM clear hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan migrants

The Migration Normalization Plan will allow Venezuelans living irregularly in the Dominican Republic to work, move without risk of deportation, open bank accounts and join the country’s social security system.  Photo: IOM / Francesco Spotorno

 

 

Santo Domingo – The first group of almost 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the Dominican Republic have received visas allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalization Plan.

Created by the Dominican government and launched with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the plan aims to regularize the Venezuelan population in three stages: application for extension of stay, visa, and residency. Since April, when the first phase began, 43,000  Venezuelans have registered to extend their stay and, on 1 July, the first group of 21 Venezuelans received their work visa.

“Now that I have my visa, I feel that for others like me a lot of opportunities are opening. We will be able to establish more safely and formally to offer a better future to our children,” says Gabriela Rivero, who arrived in the country with her husband and daughter in 2018.  “Once we settled, we did not imagine how difficult it would be to get a job because the lack of documentation closed all doors.”

READ  Mediterranean migrant arrivals reach 14,854 in 2020; deaths reach 219

Since 2019 Gabriela has led a support organization for Venezuelan migrants in Santiago de los Caballeros called FEV (Fundación Emigrantes de Venezuela), which offers free orientation and helps hundreds of migrants daily to complete their normalization plan applications.

With IOM support, eight Venezuelan migrant organizations have created orientation hubs to assist the Venezuelan population who are applying to the plan. Of the 43,000  registered through the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) web page, around 9,000 have visited the hubs for help on the procedure. The promoters and coordinators of each hub – mostly Venezuelan migrants – have learned the process with the support and guidance of the DGM team and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX). Besides being trained for orientation, they became the pilot group of the plan to receive their extensions and visas.

“The idea of this process is that we are the ones at the front of the hubs, a migrant helping a migrant, a Venezuelan helping a Venezuelan,” says Iván Carrera, a lawyer from Caracas and legal adviser of FUNCOVERD (Fundación Colonia de Venezolanos en RD). Carrera works as a promoter at the orientation hub in El Sambil Santo Domingo, one of the locations with the most people requesting support for their application.

READ  Six-month certificate programme on Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) kicks off

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

READ  Covid- 19: Migrants, refugees, IDPs might not access concomitant human rights enshrined in international law -AU

Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

READ  Migration trends to watch in 2020 – Tola Emmanuel

“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  UN agencies welcome first 24 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Greece

 

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