European countries fail to protect refugees.refugees-from-libya-in-la-007 
Brussels, 28 June 2011
– The Jesuit Refugee Service expressed its disappointment with the failure of EU states to rise to the challenge to protect refugees, particularly sub-Saharans, in North Africa.

Despite a plea by nine international NGOs on 17 June to the European Council president, none of the EU states offered to increase the resettlement quota for refugees in North Africa, nor did they offer to take any steps to help refugees who are trying to flee the conflict.

The NGOs had called on governments to increase the resettlement of refugees from Libya, guarantee access to asylum for all those fleeing the conflicts and ensure compliance laws on rescue at sea.

The total number of people who have fled Libya since the start of the conflict has now reached almost one million, hosted mostly by Tunisia and Egypt. Contrary to public perception, the number of people who have actually come to Europe is small, less than 45,000.

Nevertheless, some commitments coming out of the meeting were positively received. JRS welcomed the appointment of a human rights officer on missions undertaken by the EU external border agency. Increased funding has also been pledged for Frontex operations, for staff, emergencies and equipment. While recognising the importance of this increase, JRS urged Frontex to ensure that sufficient funds are provided to ensure the right to asylum and save lives on borders.

Unfortunately, EU policy vision for the Southern Mediterranean region is still modest. If the EU is genuinely committed to support human rights protection in the Middle East and North Africa, it means showing solidarity and humanity to displaced persons who risk their lives in search of a safe haven.

In fact, the 'dialogue on migration, mobility and security' appears to be very Euro- centric and security oriented, essentially reflecting a public discourse of fear of immigration, rather than a true partnership between the two sides of the Mediterranean.

A true partnership would mean that the region's burning and multiple refugee protection challenges become a central part of the partnership, integral to the protection of human rights and democratic governance.