European Council meets in Brussels: EU response to Mediterranean refugee situation addresses the wrong tip of the iceberg, say NGOs

25 june 2015

Media Statement 25th June 2015

European Council meets in Brussels:

EU response to Mediterranean refugee situation addresses the wrong tip of the iceberg, say NGOs

As European leaders meet today in Brussels to discuss EU security policy, Irish NGOs said in a statement that the EU’s approach to the Mediterranean refugee crisis neither protects the rights of people, nor respects international treaties on humanitarian assistance.

“We must not continue to treat the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean as a security issue caused by the criminal activities of traffickers. This is a humanitarian crisis; the tip of an iceberg made up of conflict and failing states, but also of failing international politics,” said Hans Zomer, director of Dóchas, the umbrella group of Irish Development NGOs.

“The inability or unwillingness of the international community to address conflicts such as those in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Libya is driving people away from their homes. At the same time, EU policies have made it virtually impossible for refugees to enter the EU by other routes, leaving only the dangerous sea route as an option for people fleeing their own countries,” said Zomer. 

Since the beginning of this year, more than 1800 people have died in the Mediterranean trying to reach European shores: this figure is 50 times higher than the numbers recorded over the same period in 2014.

The NGOs called on the EU Heads of States to take a holistic approach and address the root causes of forced migration.

“The EU should increase investment in inclusive development, decent work and social protection in countries of origin so that migration becomes an option - not a necessity. EU should forge a new humanitarian and development policy for preventing crisis and conflicts as well as trade and common security policies that are coherent with development objectives,” said Zomer.

Dóchas has joined other NGOs in writing to the Taoiseach urging him to address the causes of this crisis by ensuring that Ireland and other European nations live up to their promises to increase overseas aid to the UN target of 0.7% of GNI. In addition, the NGOs asked the Taoiseach to push for urgent political solutions to conflicts across Africa and the Middle East, and to open realistic legal and safe channels of migration into the EU, in order to reduce irregular migration and ensure that people migrate without risking their lives.

“We urge the Heads of States of the EU to agree a responsibility-sharing mechanism and to adopt a binding – i.e. not voluntary - policy of participation by all Member States in the reception and resettlement of migrants in a way that respects human dignity,” stated Zomer.

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Media Contact:   Hans Zomer, Dóchas Director, tel. 085 728 3258 / 01 405 3801

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Dóchas is the association of Irish Non-Governmental Development Organisations. It provides a forum for consultation and cooperation between its 43 members, and helps them speak with a single voice on development issues. For more information, visit: