A new “manifesto” put forward by Spanish MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras calls for the establishment of a European fund to assist refugees who arrive in the EU. It also advocates a unified European approach so that refugees can expect the same treatment and legal protection wherever they arrive.
The demand comes with the EU being urged to act after a boat sank early on Sunday with hundreds feared drowned.
EU ministers are under pressure after last year’s decision to scale back search-and-rescue efforts.
Terricabras, a Catalan MEP and President of the EFA Group in the European Parliament,together with a delegation from PEN International, a worldwide writers association dedicated to freedom of expression, have now presented a “manifesto” for the protection of refugees in Europe.
It was sent to to Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament.
The delegation from PEN International included its President, John Ralston Saul, and the author and President of German PEN, Josef Haslinger.
The manifesto, which has drawn the support of more than 1,000 writers, was also signed by Günter Grass.
The initiative comes ahead of a conference organised in the European Parliament by the Greens/EFA Group on freedom in a time of crisis.
The conference is the first in a series organised by the Greens/EFA on freedom of speech in Europe today. The event focusses on writers and the challenges they face in Europe and around the world in the context of freedom of expression.
Josep-Maria Terricabras said, “I hope that the EU will listen to our calls because a political and economic Union is hardly worthy of the name unless it’s also a humanitarian union.”
John Ralston Saul, the author and President of PEN International, said: “The question of borders matters, but lives matter too. We think that Europe is a welcoming place and it needs to be a welcoming place for refugees and we believe there should be a European Fund created so they can be treated in an equal manner across Europe”.
Further comment came from Josef Haslinger, who added, “The protection of refuges is a common obligation for the European Union. What really disturbs us is the completely different standards of asylum in different countries and regions”.
Schulz has thanked Terricabras for organising the initiative.
He said: “This is a call that we take very seriously in the European Parliament. I thank Terricabras for organising this initiative, which is exceptionally important. I recently visited a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border and I must admit that I was ashamed at how EU member states are shunning their responsibilities and applying international standards of solidarity and respect.”
Ahead of the Luxembourg talks on Monday, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Europe had a “political and moral duty” to act in the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.
“The Mediterranean is our sea and we have to act together as Europeans… The European Union was built and is built around the protection of human rights, human dignity and the life of human people – we need to be consistent in that.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “appalled” by Sunday’s disaster and wanted Europe to find “answers”, her spokesman said.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “a dark day for Europe”, adding that “search and rescue is only one part. We need to go after traffickers, help stabilise these countries”.
The UN says the route from North Africa to Italy and Malta has become the world’s deadliest.
By Martin Banks