Marie-Christine Vergiat : "It's the European Union that created this situation" - Mediapart

Marie-Christine Vergiat : "It's the European Union that created this situation" - Mediapart

I invite you to read my last interview for Mediapart prior to the debate in the European Parliament on Humanitarian emergencies in the Mediterranean and solidarity in the EU.

The French version has previously been posted and is available here.

Marie-Christine Vergiat: "It's the European Union that created this situation"

Mediapart (French version)- June 11, 2018

MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat denounces the responsibility of the European Union, which, for half a dozen years, has allowed Italy to handle only the reception of migrants for Europe. With the political damage that we know.

Who bears the responsibility for the blocking of Aquarius since Sunday, at the gates of Europe? If Matteo Salvini, Italy's far-right interior minister, refuses to accept migrants' electoral brand, it is the European Union that is the main culprit in the current tragedy, said Marie-Christine Vergiat, MEP, Front de gauche, member of the GUE in the Strasbourg Parliament.

The Aquarius blocked for two days in the open sea: whose fault?

Marie-Christine Vergiat: It is the European Union which, by its lack of solidarity vis-à-vis Italy, created this situation. Before 2011, and for years, Malta [solicited after the refusal of Italy - ed] had to manage the arrival of migrants alone, so this time she refused to take over the Aquarius.

Since 2011, when population movements began to become more important, Italy was left to manage by itself. Today, it welcomes every year between 100,000 and 150,000 people in its territory. With the highlighting of "Dublin 3", Italy has taken charge of the weight of sea rescue for the whole Europe, and it has done rather well.

We must see that when the Italian government launched "Mare Nostrum" to rescue people, she found herself alone. Matteo Renzi had to find 95 million euros from October 2013 to October 2014 to finance the operation and, when he asked for help, the European Council gave him 5 million euros. As for Greece, it was in the front line in 2015 and 2016, and welcomed a million people, again, alone.

How do you explain that there has never been a concerted distribution of migrants between Member States?

In 2015, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, did what he could: he asked that 160 000 people to be "relocated" from Italy and Greece to other European countries in two years. Although this was very insufficient since there were 1.4 million people arriving in Italy and Greece over the same period. But the first reflex of the countries was to refuse and close their borders. Fortunately, in 2015 and 2016, Angela Merkel welcomed in Germany 60% of the refugees (among them, two thirds of Syrians). However, it we should remember that the number of refugees hosted in Europe is a drop in the ocean compared to what is happening in the Middle East.

And yet, if we believe the recent elections in Italy in particular, the anti-migrant speech of the extreme right seems politically rewarding ...

Recently, the European Commission presented a study showing that Europeans keep showing solidarity with refugees in all European countries, except in Italy. We are crying wolf, this anti-immigrant feeling does not fall from the sky. It's easy to comment that in France, we never opened our ports to relieve Italy or Greece. In reality, France has been very little affected by the migration crisis. The number of asylum seekers has hardly increased. Between 2015 and 2016, it went from 85,000 to 95,000. And again, we are one of the countries with the lowest rate of acceptance of asylum applications - between 35% and 40% - which is below many European countries. When we see what is happening at the Franco-Italian border, it is staggering: we do control facies of migrants contrary to national laws, European and international law... There is many things to be ashamed of our governments! In addition, they hide behind the Dublin agreements to send migrants back to the country where they landed, so very often in Italy, while there is no obligation to "Dublin": if the country of arrival is obliged to accept the return of the person who was returned to him, however, the other European country is absolutely not obliged to send it back where it comes from.

Where are you with the reform of the Dublin agreements?

There is currently a standoff between the European Parliament and the European Council. In the Parliament, six groups out of eight, from right to European left, agree to propose a key  distribution. The problem is that the European Council does not want this solution and wants to strengthen Dublin by forcing the return to the country. And contrary to what we can believe, it is not only the countries of the East that block. The rulers, with the exception of the countries of the South, say that setting up a distribution is too complicated for migrants and that is why they refuse. But the problem is that they do not give themselves the means to welcome ...

How to get things done, since a political blockage seems to favor the soaring extreme right?

The only way to resist is, instead of running behind the extreme right, to do the opposite: to show, on the one hand, that there is no migratory "submersion" and, on the other hand, if the reception is well thought and organized, everything can be fine. In any case, it is not by building walls that migrants will be prevented from coming.

Can this very media episode of Aquarius blocked at sea force the European Council to reconsider its positions?

It is to be hoped that this story will show what is happening at the European Council. In any case, Pedro Sánchez, the new Spanish president, was brave to accept that the 629 people stuck on the boat land in Spain - although this is explained by the fact that the migration issue appears less as an issue of debate in Spain ... Today, we must work in two directions for the European public opinion: first, explain that the main migrations do not come from Southern countries, but from the North and Asia (India and China), and that the first migrants in Europe are in fact Ukrainian - they arrive in Poland for work. Then remember that the vast majority of migrants arrive on a regular basis (labor immigration, to study, family reunion ...) and that one of the ways to avoid the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and not to play the game of smugglers and traffickers is to open legal channels.

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Eurocitoyenne, le site internet de Marie-Christine Vergiat, Députée Européenne Front de Gauche