|Significant boat arrivals from North Africa have started to reach Malta and are expected to begin arriving in other Mediterranean countries. (Jesuit Refugee Service)|
|The human rights organizations repeated earlier appeals, urging states to do more to save those unable to return to their home countries due to violence or risk of persecution, particularly Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somali and Sudanese refugees.|
(Brussels) April 12, 2011 – A group of international NGOs based in the Belgian capital have urged European Union states to respond to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in North Africa.
The statement — issued by the International Rescue Committee, the International Migration Commission, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, Save the Children, and others — called for measures to ensure greater protection, humanitarian assistance, cooperation and solidarity.
According to the NGOs, many of the 400,000 people who have fled Libya are stranded in border areas. To meet the growing needs of the displaced and host populations, the statement urged EU governments to increase their current contributions to UN agencies and international NGOs present on the ground.
The human rights organizations repeated earlier appeals, urging states to do more to save those unable to return to their home countries due to violence or risk of persecution, particularly Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somali and Sudanese refugees.
Where neither effective protection nor local integration is available to these refugees, resettlement is the only durable solution left. As an immediate response, EU states should pledge additional resettlement places for 2011-12 as requested by UN refugee agency (UNHCR). In the longer term, EU resettlement allocations need to increase protection space in the North Africa. In all these cases, the most vulnerable refugees, as determined by UNHCR, should be prioritized.
Protecting rights in the EU
Since January, more than 20,000 people have arrived by boat to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa. Of the arrivals from Tunisia thus far, the vast majority are not seeking international protection. A small number among them however, and a substantially greater number among those leaving Libya are a mix of both refugees and asylum seekers (particularly Eritreans and Somalis).
Significant boat arrivals have also started to reach Malta and are expected to begin arriving in other Mediterranean countries.
EU states, the statement continued, must ensure that all persons who are either apprehended at sea, landing on the shores or arriving at other EU borders are given immediate access to procedures that effectively ensure the proper identification of persons in need of protection and their referral to appropriate services.
"None of these persons should be automatically detained or deprived of his or her liberty except as a last resort, on a case-to-case basis and separate from criminal detainees," the statement read.
Moreover, EU states should, the NGOs recommended, ensure adequate responses are allocated to meet the needs of unaccompanied children arriving in the EU. Taking child protection as their starting point, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children should never be detained, nor be separated from family members unless it is properly assessed to be in their best interest.
+39 06 6897 7465