Labour MEPs today welcomed the European Commission's new migration strategy, but called for stronger action to rescue migrants drowning at sea, a more coherent plan to tackle people-smugglers, and safer pathways to legal, managed migration.
Claude Moraes MEP, chair of the European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee, responsible for migration, said:
"After the harrowing scale of deaths in the Mediterranean on 19 April, I highlighted two key concerns: first, the need for search and rescue - on par with the former Mare Nostrum operation - and second, realistic commitments to resettlement.
"We welcome the Commission's commitment to increasing the operational area of Triton, which, together with a tripling of its funding and an increase in vessels for operations, gives Frontex every opportunity to save those in distress at sea.
"However, the new operational area has not been clarified and if it is not on par with the distances covered by Mare Nostrum, this will be an empty gesture and lives will be lost."
On the options to target smugglers' boats - including military action - Mr Moraes said:
"The proposed action to target smugglers' boats is fraught with difficulties and could harm the lives of vulnerable migrants. It may, if not managed with extreme care, put EU countries deeper into a conflict zone. We need far clearer detail about what would happen after such an option is pursued, and that detail does not exist at present.
"There is high political support for military action against smugglers associated with Libya but low support for relocation and resettlement policy. The EU’s answer to the humanitarian crisis cannot be a de facto defence policy. It is therefore up to the Commission, with Parliament's cooperation, to push for relocation and resettlement policies which are responsible and fairly distributed."
And on a EU-wide resettlement scheme and on legal migration, Mr Moraes added:
"I welcome the Commission’s proposal for an EU-wide resettlement scheme. This will provide refugees with a compassionate, measured alternative to the deadly smugglers' routes across the Mediterranean.
"I also welcome the start of the discussion on legal migration routes; however, this is too little too late. We need a bolder strategy on what legal routes may be available for managed migration into the EU.
"The EU needs a comprehensive set of legal migration policy proposals that legislate for low waged migrants, protecting their rights, giving a safe and legal route of entry and ensuring local wages are not undercut.
"The Commission must get credit for a strong, if in some areas incomplete, reaction to one of the most critical human problems facing the EU. It is the job of the European Parliament to point out that the EU member states have shown contempt for solidarity and responsibility sharing.
"We must now, together, ensure comprehensive and compassionate action on the Mediterranean migrant crisis."