Study: Beyond borders, beyond boundaries

My Dutch colleague Tineke Strik and I have commissioned a critical analysis of the EU's financial support for border regimes in Tunisia and Libya on behalf of the Green Group in the European Parliament.

You can find the entire study here English and French.

A two-page summary is available on German, English, Italian, French and Arabic.

Clear failings on the part of the Commission 

The border protection measures co-financed by the European Commission and the member states regularly result in serious human rights violations. These include the use of physical force or deliberate collisions by the Tunisian coast guard or the interception and deprivation of liberty of migrants, enslavement, forced labor, imprisonment, extortion and smuggling by the Libyan coast guard. 

These are enormous sums, over € 70 million each for Libya and Tunisia for the periods from 2018 to 2022; a detailed overview can be found in the first chapter of the study.

When allocating funds, the risk of human rights violations is not sufficiently taken into account, despite corresponding provisions in the NDICI regulation, among others, through which most measures have been financed since 2021. Even during the project period, it is unclear how the projects are monitored, as the European Commission does not provide any documents, citing confidentiality.

Next steps

Funds should only be disbursed if it can be ensured that they will not be used to support measures that are associated with human rights violations. A human rights impact assessment must not only be carried out at the beginning of the project; programs must also be reviewed and, if necessary, adjusted or interrupted during their term. To this end, it is important that sufficient documents are made available to the European Parliament. Civil society also has an important role to play here; it is important that civil society organizations are consulted in funding decisions.

Further information

In order to present the study, we held a conference on the same day. Event The human rights aspects in particular were discussed with Seawatch, the authors of the study and DG NEAR; a recording of the event can be made available on request.

You can download the summary (EN/DE/FR/IT/AR) and the entire study (EN/FR) here The German translation will follow at the end of December. The SZ has also published reports.

Frontex shows no interest in Crotone reconnaissance

From joint research by Lighthouse Reports, El País, Sky News, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Domani, it emerges that the Italian government lied about its role in the Crotone boat accident that killed 94 people, including 35 children, and that Frontex helped cover up the incident. I sent a question to the Commission with 25 MEPs from four political groups, which was answered on August 3.

No interest in clarification

Now Frontex has also responded to our question. Specifically, we asked:

What is Frontex's assessment of the revelations, especially in light of the fact that they are not in line with the information provided before the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs statements made by its Executive Director, Hans Leijtens, on May 23, 2023. be in harmony?

Unfortunately, Frontex's answer does not show much interest in a reappraisal. The Executive Director only claims that the ship was not in an emergency situation when it was sighted by Frontex six hours before the incident. He also claims that Frontex correctly informed the Italian authorities.

Information is also withheld from the press

Frontex also refuses to to provide the press with relevant information about the case. So far, the agency has published only one e-mail, which was sent immediately after the accident. Dozens of other documents remain under lock and key. Frontex justifies this by saying that it is important information on ongoing operations. In addition, the agency claims the information could be used by smugglers. These arguments are not very convincing, because smugglers do not primarily act according to where Frontex happens to be. The clarification of the accident that led to so many deaths should have priority here.

EU migration agreement with Tunisia

On July 16, 2023, the European Commission adopted, without consulting the Council and the European Parliament, a migration agreement (âmemorandum of understandingâ) signed with Tunisia. What is wrong with this and why human rights are not in the foreground in this deal, I have among other things explained in the NDR and I would like to explain this once again in detail in this article.

Current situation in Tunisia

Under Acting President Kais Saied, a massive dismantling of democracy in Tunisia. Saied spreads racist slogans, makes blacks the scapegoats of the economic problems in his country, and spreads the right-wing conspiracy theory of the âgreat exchangeâ, claiming that there is a plot afoot, „to change the demographic composition of Tunisia“. This agitation culminated in hunts and pogrom-like riots against black people in Tunisia. 

In the meantime, Tunisian authorities seem to have increasingly systematically abandoned people in the desert and left them to fend for themselves. Thus, only recently a group of over 80 people rescued by Libyan border guardspreviously released by Tunisia in the desert. In the desert of North Africa more people may die than on the Mediterranean SeaHowever, there is much less documented – coordinated rescue missions in the desert do not exist.

According to UNHCR figures Tunisia has replaced Libya as the largest transit country since last year. Since the beginning of 2023 A total of 104,808 protection seekers arrived in Italy by sea. According to Tunisian National Guard data 34,290 people were prevented from fleeing Tunisia from January to the end of June 2023, nearly four times more than in the same period in 2022.

At the same time, the situation for refugees in Tunisia is very bad. There is no functioning asylum system and no other legal framework to protect asylum seekers or to grant residence permits.

Migration cooperation with Tunisia to date 

There is a longstanding cooperation between Tunisia and the EU in the field of migration. In 2012, a Privileged Partnership was established and an Action Plan for the period 2013 to 2017 was adopted. The action plan addressed the protection of asylum seekers and refugees as well as cooperation in the areas of migration, mobility, and security. In parallel, in 2014, a Mobility partnership was established. This should lead to the conclusion of two agreements: the first on readmission and a second on the facilitation of visa formalities.

Negotiations for a readmission agreement between the EU and Tunisia began in 2016. Tunisia has signed and generally respected bilateral readmission agreements with six member states (including Italy, Germany, and Belgium), but they are limited to Tunisian nationals. 

Even the 1998 readmission agreement with Italy, which provides for the repatriation of foreigners, excludes the readmission of third-country nationals from member states of the Arab Maghreb Union to Tunisia.

Already in 2017, Tunisia had rejected the EU’s proposals to âoutsourceâ migration management; Saied also emphasized that Tunisia does not want to become âEurope’s border guardâ. However, the EU has been financing migration measures (for border control) in Tunisia for years, among others through EU Trust Fund for Africa (expiring) and through NDICI – Global Europe. There, the âMulti-countryâ Migration Program for the Southern Neighborhood 2021-2027 2021 allocated 25 million euros to support the development of border management facilities. In particular, for the support of the training infrastructure of the Tunisian Guard Nationale Maritime, support for the establishment of a coordination center for sea rescue and completion of the integrated coastal surveillance system. In addition, EUR 14 million was allocated in 2021 to support the return of Tunisians. Here is a detailed report to this. 

The content of the âdeclaration of intentâ

On June 11, at a Press conference Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (as âTeam Europeâ) presented the planned package of measures during a visit to Tunis, preceded by several visits by various representatives of the EU and its member states in the months before. Von der Leyen underscored the historic partnership between the EU and Tunisia and emphasized the intention to work with Tunisia on a âcomprehensive packageâ that would focus on 5 pillars supports: 

  1. Support economic development Mobilization of up to ⬠900 million for macro-financial assistance (linked to IMF criteria/ IMF loan of 1.9 billion), plus ⬠150 million in immediate budget support (funds that flow directly into the state budget).
  2. Investment and trade – Modernization trade agreements, investment in digital infrastructure etc.
  3. Energy – Production and export of renewable energy (including ELMED cable).
  4. Migration Support for border management and anti-smuggling, sea rescue and repatriation, for which the EU budget will provide â'¬ 105 million in 2023.
  5. âPeople to people contactsâ/ People communication – Measures for exchange and cooperation such as Erasmus+, in the research field, vocational training measures, etc. 

On July 16, the corresponding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed, which takes up and deepens the above points. The legal status of the MoU is not clear, and the parliament was not involved, which would have been necessary if it were an agreement.

Macrofinancial support

The text does not provide any specific figures on macrofinancial support; more detailed information will be discussed in the third quarter â23.

With regard to cooperation in the field of migration, the following points are primarily mentioned:

  • Irregular migration is to be combated (in line with previous cooperation in the areas of border protection, support for the Tunisian coast guard, combating smuggling), and legal migration routes are to be opened up.
  • Tunisia to be supported in deporting third-country nationals ("irregular migrants") to their countries of origin
  • Development cooperation should aim at combating the causes of flight (e.g. through training measures)
  • Saied's position, already expressed in advance, that Tunisia is not a "host country" and that no border protection is carried out beyond its own borders is reiterated
  • Return measures from the EU refer only to Tunisian nationals, not third-country nationals
  • the EU should support Tunisia in concluding similar bilateral agreements with member states 
  • for all these measures financial support is provided by the EU 

The extent to which these points from the MoU are implemented in practice, what implications they have for the human rights situation in Tunisia, or what priorities are set, cannot yet be answered. There has been no impact assessment with regard to fundamental and human rights, nor has there been an impact assessment with regard to the question of whether the intended goals can be achieved with the corresponding measures.

The further procedure 

According to Article 218 TFEU, international treaties concluded by the EU with third countries require the consent of the European Parliament. A "Memorandum of Understanding" was signed here by the Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy Olivér Várhelyi and the Tunisian Foreign Minister Mounir Ben Rijba. The individual points are then to be implemented in different procedures. In the Interior Committee of the European Parliament on 18.07.23 members of various parliamentary groups have articulated clear doubts and called for a legal opinion to clarify the legal nature of the agreement. This is particularly relevant because it is unclear which decision-making structures will be applied at all and what role Parliament will have in this process.

Also from the Council Legal Service, the European External Action Service, and numerous member state there is said to have been vehement criticismthat the agreement was signed without their consultation, legal action was reserved.
The announced macro-financial assistance of up to €900 million retains, according to so far informal information from the Commission, a successful agreement with the IMF as a precondition and also requires a legal act of the Council and the EP (ordinary legislative procedure). The additionally announced budget support and other measures can be funded from the 2023 budget via various financing instruments, whereby the EP has no formal role in deciding on the specific allocation of funds. However, the procedure and the allocation of funds have so far been so opaque that it is not yet possible to make a final assessment.


Most of the measures in the MoU are not new, nor do they represent a U-turn in cooperation between the EU and Tunisia or the entire southern neighborhood. It is also important that the EU does not turn its back on the Tunisian people, and many of the announced measures, such as the exchange on the inclusion of Tunisia in the Erasmus+ program, are to be supported. However, the de facto linking of financial support against cooperation in the migration sector is critical. Even though according to the MoU human rights standards are to be respected, this is not further defined, and a human rights impact assessment is not foreseen. Experience in Libya, for example, shows that without concrete measures and law enforcement in this area, massive human rights violations can go unpunished in practice, and they also have no influence on the funding of cooperation. It is also questionable how compliance with these standards will be verified if we are already failing with them at our own external borders. The largely unconditional cooperation in the area of migration and the allocation of funds (especially budget support directly for the state budget) without clearly defined conditions send a devastating signal. This is especially true as democratic structures are increasingly dismantled in Tunisia and basic rights of refugees in the country are not respected. The EU ("Team Europe") is obviously trying by all means to stop migration movements, although many of those seeking protection would be entitled to asylum in the EU. In particular, partners in third countries are used, because they want to achieve things that the EU states themselves are not allowed to do under human rights law – for example, disembarking shipwrecked asylum seekers in Tunisia.

In my view, one of the main criticisms of the agreement is the planned support of Tunisia in the repatriation of "irregular migrants" to their countries of origin, while at the same time a national asylum law has not been implemented in Tunisia and thus all procedures lie with the UNHCR. Instead of investing money in (ineffective) border protection and supporting an autocratic regime, efforts should rather be made to create a binding legal framework and adequate structures for protection seekers in Tunisia.

Overall, the opportunity to reach a transparent and progressive agreement that achieves a sustainable improvement in the human rights situation in Tunisia, creates legal migration channels and a joint partnership that could help end the deaths on the Mediterranean Sea has been missed here so far. While some points from the agreement are welcome, it remains to be seen whether these points will actually be implemented, as many points from such agreements have not been implemented in the past once the money-for-migration deal has worked.

Migration agreements should be discussed in parliaments and negotiated transparently. In recent years, however, governments and the EU Commission have increasingly shunned parliaments and the public when new deals are being negotiated. Where this leads has been shown in the failed EU-Turkey deal and in Libya, where, according to the UN Commission, we are now supporting smuggling structures with taxpayer money. This kind of thing should not happen again in Tunisia, but it is happening now.

One should not transfer hundreds of millions to an autocrat without having a clear plan. Tunisian President Kais Saied is engaged in a massive dismantling of democracy, spreading conspiracy theories and stirring up racist sentiment. With this deal, the EU is not only supporting an autocrat, it is also making itself vulnerable to blackmail from him. In recent weeks, evidence has mounted that Tunisia is simply abandoning refugees in the desert without water or food. Those responsible in Tunisia are accepting the death of people on the run. The EU strategy is short-sighted and naive, they believe they can buy their way out of responsibility with money. European asylum policy should not be dependent on a right-wing populist government in Italy and its good contacts with an autocrat in Tunisia. 

Question: Human trafficking by Libyan coast guard

I have asked the Commission what it thinks about the fact that the Libyan coast guard, which it supports, is itself involved in smuggling and human trafficking. This includes a person who is on the sanctions list of the United Nations Security Council. 

In its response, the Commission says that the human rights violations and conditions in detention centers in Libya are unacceptable. Nevertheless, the Commission supports the very entities that bring people to these camps. So the Commission knows that basic human rights are being violated here, but is not willing to align its policy with these basic human rights. The Commission talks about saving lives, but in most cases these are not rescue operations, but pull-backs, in which people are taken against their will to the civil war country Libya, so that they do not apply for asylum in the EU. 

The reference to the fact that the people in Libya would be even worse off without EU aid is a red herring, since my question is not about cooperation in general, but very specifically about the Libyan coast guard. The Commission’s claim that there is a “solid monitoring mechanism†is wishful thinking. The Commission supports an organization that, according to the UN, violates basic human rights and believes that it can give money to this organization without supporting the violation of basic human rights. In addition, there is a massive lack of transparency towards the parliament, because evaluations and monitoring are not disclosed. Despite repeated requests, we MEPs do not have a precise overview of the EU funds for Libya.

All my questions and the answers of the Commission can be found here.

My request

From the recent report of the independent fact-finding mission of the United Nations Human Rights Council. on Libya reveals evidence that units and members of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard are collaborating with smugglers and are themselves involved in human trafficking, particularly in the western Libyan region of Zawiya. It has been revealed that the Libyan Coast Guard in this area is in cahoots with the al-Nasr detention center in Zawiya. The unit’s commander, Abd al-Rahman al-Milad (nicknamed âBijaâ), has been on trial since June 2018 for involvement in human trafficking. United Nations Security Council Sanctions List.

1) When did the Commission learn about this and what information does it have about this collusion in the Zawiya region?

2) What action will the Commission take in response to the findings that have come to light and will this result in the cessation of cooperation with or financial support for the so-called Libyan Coast Guard? 3) What steps can we expect the Commission to take after the publication of this report with regard to Italy in light of the country’s cooperation with Libya and the so-called Libyan Coast Guard?

Answer given by Olivér Várhelyi on behalf of the European Commission (21.8.2023)

Given the complex situation in Libya, EU-funded programs in Libya are implemented according to the principle of harm reduction and with a conflict-sensitive and rights-based approach, ensuring respect for human rights and due diligence as well as restrictive measures. The Commission pays close attention to ensuring that individuals working on ther Sanctions List of the United Nations Security Council will not benefit from EU funds. EU and Italian support for the Libyan coast guard plays a crucial role in saving lives at sea. The human rights violations in Libya and the conditions in the detention centers are unacceptable.

In line with the strategic guidelines of the European Council, the Commission continues to work with the Libyan authorities to build capacity for effective border management, in line with international standards and respect for human rights, to save lives at sea and to combat smuggling and trafficking networks. Despite the difficult situation in Libya, the situation of those most in need would not improve if EU assistance in the country were to be temporarily suspended or if the EU were to withdraw from the country altogether.

The EU, together with its implementing partners, has a robust monitoring mechanism for the assistance provided to Libya. Third party monitoring is also carried out, focusing in particular on compliance with the harm reduction principle. Furthermore, the Commission carries out ad hoc evaluation and monitoring missions. As regards the provision of search and rescue vessels to the Libyan coast guard, the delivery followed the signing of an agreement between Italy and Libya, which includes guarantees for the respect of human rights and the monitoring of the use of the vessels.

5 billion € of the EU to Greece for migration and asylum – and still such conditions?

Since 2014, the European Union has provided a total of €4.96 billion to Greece to address migration and border challenges.

The European Union's support to Greece is provided through four pots: the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), the Internal Security Fund (ISF), the  Emergency Support Instrument (ESI) and the Border Management and Visa Policy Instrument (BMVI). The largest pot is the AMIF, through which a total of €9.88 billion has been made available in the current Multiannual Financial Framework. Greece has been allocated €2.75 billion from this pot since 2014. Through this budget item, EU member states are supported for the purpose of the efficient management of migration and the implementation and strengthening of the Common European Asylum System. The ISF provides money for the management of visas and entry, control of external borders, but also returns, for example through Frontex. Here, nearly half a billion € has been provided to Greece since 2014. The ESI is used to support emergencies and gives money for humanitarian aid, the share was €668.9 million. The BMVI has the task of ensuring European border protection at the external borders of the Union. Most of the regular money from AMIF, ISF, ESI and BMVI goes to the national authorities, i.e. the Greek authorities dealing with migration and asylum, such as the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum. 

In addition to the regular requirements, funds can also be mobilized from AMIF and ISF for other short-term emergency needs ("Emergency Assistance"). In the case of Greece, the funds disbursed between 2014 and 2020 from Emergency Assistance represent the largest sum of all funds, in total 2,07 € billion. 1.25 € billion of all funds of the Emergency Assistance 820 million went to international organizations and €820 million to the Greek authorities.

How much money has actually flowed?

In fact the Greek authorities received 2.59 € billion, under the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) from 2014 to 2020. In this context, it is particularly important to note that 3.38 € billion awarded were made, but a large part of it was not spent. This clearly shows that the funds available are necessary to provide adequate and dignified care for refugees on the Greek islands and on the mainland, but the political will is missingto implement it in this way. 

Basic requirements of the EU Reception Directive are still not being met in Greece, such as the right to education for children. The provision of food is also still problematic and inadequate. Enough money would actually be available to solve the problems in the long term. Even the European Court of Auditors as the EU's own authority, came in its Annual Report 2019 reached similar conclusions, without explicitly naming them as such. There was no explicit misappropriation of funds, but some funds from Emergency Assistance were misappropriated for longer-term projects and structures, although they may only be used flexibly for short-term emergency needs. In addition, the ACA criticized the inefficient use of the funds and thus the Discrepancy between EU targets and actual results – in other words, the lack of political will. Now, the money is not only going to the Greek authorities, but also to international organisations. But even more money to international organisations is not necessarily helpful if the Greek government does not support their work. blocked and criminalized, as is the case especially on the Greek islands. 

For those who would like to take a closer look at the money budgeted and flowed and the MFF 2014-2020, you can find here is an overview from the European Commission. It also presents how much money went to the different international organization as well as to which Greek authorities. 

A consideration of the Numbers makes one thing very clear again. Almost €5 billion has been allocated to Greece for migration and asylum since the summer of migration in 2015. The state authorities and organizations actually have enough resources to treat and care for people with dignity. But it seems politically undesirable. How much money will actually be drawn down under the current financial framework remains to be seen.

Question: Is the Commission ready to act after the cover-up of the Crotone accident?

On June 14, I sent a question to the European Commission, which was supported by 25 MEPs from four political groups. The Commission does not answer my questions and excuses itself with the fact that it does not want to comment on ongoing investigations.

My request

From joint research by Lighthouse ReportsEl PaÃs, Sky News, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Domani, the Italian government lied about its role in the Crotone boat accident that killed 94 people, including 35 children, and that Frontex helped cover up the incident. In its reply to our previous written question, the Commission stated that âSearchâ and rescue operations […] are an obligation of the Member States under national law.â. Furthermore, the Commission pointed out that it does not consider a search and rescue mechanism coordinated by the Union necessary.

  • 1)What action does the Commission intend to take following this chain of catastrophic errors, and what consequences will Italy and Frontex face?
  • 2)What has the Commission done in the Frontex Management Board to clarify this misconduct by Frontex?

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Union (3.08.2023)

The Commission is aware that the Italian authorities have launched an investigation to obtain relevant information on the shipwreck. While the Commission cannot comment on or prejudge the outcome of an ongoing investigation, it continues to urge all actors involved in search and rescue operations to act lawfully, swiftly and in a coordinated manner to ensure that people in distress at sea are brought to safety as quickly as possible.

The Commission and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) regularly exchange views, including through the Commission representatives on the Management Board of the Agency. The Commission recalls that at the joint meeting of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on 24 May 2023, the Executive Director of Frontex explained in detail Frontex’s actions in relation to the tragic incident in Crotone. In this meeting, the Italian Coast Guard also stated that the investigation of the incident is still ongoing. The Commission expects that the results of the investigation will be communicated to the Board as soon as they are available.

3) As the third question, concerning the assessment of the facts by Frontex, falls entirely within the competence of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the Commission has asked the Agency to provide the information requested by the Honourable Members. The Commission will provide the Honourable Members with the Agency's reply as soon as possible.

Question to the Commission on EU-funded detention center in Bosnia

On April 19, I sent the following question to the Commission. The Commission has again taken more time than it should to reply. In the meantime Bosnian politician announces end of prison facilitybecause there is no legal basis for it. My question about the problematic wording of the Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi is simply ignored by him.

My request

In November 2022, Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi visited Bosnia and Herzegovina and announced that an additional EUR 500,000 will be used for the Lipa camp and detention center in order to âfake asylum seekersâ can be imprisoned[1]until they are returned to their countries of origin. The EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Johann Sattler, on the other hand, said last weekthat people may be detained there for a maximum of 72 hours. The EU funds for Lipa come from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).

The cantonal authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina state that the construction permit for the detention center in Lipa camp was never issued. The Prime Minister of Una-Sana Canton publicly expresses his concern about the lack of information about the object. Please answer the following questions individually.

  • 1.What is the Commission's view of the term âfake asylum seekersâ and how do they differ from âcorrectâ asylum seekers?
  • How many people can be detained in the Lipa camp and for what purpose, and how is it ensured that the money is not used for the detention of persons previously illegally deported from the EU by Croatian authorities?
  • the Commission's view, is the treatment of persons in the Lipa camp in accordance with EU and international law?

Answer given by Olivér Várhelyi on behalf of the European Commission (2.08.2023)

It is one of the priorities of the EU, in accordance with international law, the principles and values of the EU and the protection of fundamental rights, as stated in the letters of the President of the Commission to the Council, The recent conclusions of the European Council and the EU Action Plan for the Western Balkans. Improve border management, ensure faster asylum procedures, combat migrant smuggling, and promote cooperation on readmission and return in order to counter irregular migration via the Western Balkan route.

The multifunctional reception and identification center in Lipa serves several purposes: Migrants are registered, their status is determined, and their identity is verified upon arrival and departure from the center. The center has significantly improved conditions for migrants and averted another humanitarian crisis, like the one in the winter of 2020â2021. At that time, several migrants were stranded without shelter in devastating conditions. The center is under the authority of the Foreigners Authority of the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and can accommodate up to 1,500 people.

The new detention facility in Lipa will be a separate and fully self-contained facility that can accommodate up to twelve persons. In certain cases, in line with international standards and the EU acquis, temporary restrictions on freedom of movement and detention measures can be introduced here before the persons concerned are transferred to the immigration center in Lukavica (East Sarajevo). The Law on Foreigners (âZakon o strancimaâ) of BiH defines the circumstances under which the restriction of free movement can be approved. As immigration centers must comply with BiH legislation and international humanitarian standards, the EU regularly seeks information from authorities and partners on the management of the centers and frequently conducts on-site visits.

European Parliament calls for sea rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea

Finally! The EU Parliament has in a resolution clearly spoken out in favor of an EU sea rescue mission. In addition, we demand, among other things, that information about sea rescue cases be shared immediately, that the criminalization of sea rescue organizations be refrained from and that ships be allowed into the next safe port after sea rescues.
I negotiated the resolution for our group and even if we cannot immediately force the Member States to implement the measures, it is a clear sign of where the majority in Europe stands.

The deaths in the Mediterranean cannot be tolerated any longer.

I took the cover photo on a sea rescue mission after we gave people life jackets. Often on the overcrowded inflatable boats you can hardly see a piece of boat – only dozens of people in acute danger of their lives. This reality that every day is decided on life or death of many people at our external borders and the decision is too often that people just have to die in case of doubt, that must never become normal. But it has become normal and we have to change that again. Parliament's decision unfortunately does not bring about any concrete change, because Parliament cannot decide on operations and has only very limited powers in this area. But it does increase the pressure on the heads of state and government and sends a clear signal against right-wing populism.

Here are some of the demands from the resolution

  • We call for an EU maritime rescue mission.
  • Member States and the EU should finally comply with applicable international law and come to the aid of people in distress at sea.
  • We demand that the Commission creates a new, reliable and sustainable approach that ensures sea rescue and that we are no longer constantly dependent on ad-hoc solutions. The Commission should provide material, financial and operational support for this.
  • Member States and Frontex should proactively operate search and rescue missions and provide or deploy all necessary and available boats and equipment to save lives.
  • All Mediterranean states and Frontex should share or provide information on sea emergencies to ensure rescue.
  • Rescued people should be assigned to the nearest safe haven.
  • The Commission should set up a sea rescue contact group to coordinate missions by Frontex and member states and regularly inform the Parliament about it.
  • Frontex should share information about its operations and comply with Union law, just as member states do.
  • The Commission must ensure that Frontex and Member States only enter safe ports after rescue and do not expose asylum seekers to danger.
  • The dead of Pylos should be recovered, identified, their relatives informed and more bodies searched for. The survivors must be distributed in solidarity in the EU.
  • We advocate that safe escape routes are the best way to prevent deaths and therefore call for humanitarian corridors.

Here you can find the complete text on german and english.

Exhibition: "1000 Dreams"- Refugees portray refugees 

At the beginning of the July plenary week, in cooperation with Witness Change and the Heinrich Böll Foundation Thessaloniki opened a photo exhibition of individual stories of refugees in the Parliament. 

Against the backdrop of the current debates on the reform of the EU asylum system, it is important to keep reminding that behind technical discussions on refugee numbers, distribution mechanisms and border procedures are individual people who will be directly affected by these decisions. Many people in Europe rarely come into contact with refugees. Our views of them are often formed from what we hear, read, or see from others, as well as from media coverage and social media. In doing so, we must make an effort to listen to refugees. 

1000 Dreams

This is where the project "1000 Dreams" From Witness Change an. Refugees should have their say and tell their stories. Refugees should not be seen as a homogeneous group, but as individuals with talents, dreams and needs. More than 50 storytellers with a refugee background have already taken part in workshops in Athens, Lesbos and London, among other places. In workshops, they practice taking portraits and conducting interviews. All photo shoots and interviews that make up 1000 Dreams are thus conducted and created by refugees with refugees. Over 800 contributions and portraits have been created in this way so far. It should become 1000. In Strasbourg we have exhibited 20. 

Exhibition Strasbourg

For the opening, storytellers Zahra Mojahed, Elsayed Elsehamy Abdelhamid and Mirza Durakovic came to Strasbourg to share their personal life stories and tell us about their work on the project. For Witness Change, founder Robin Hammond and William Lounsbury as director of the 1000 Dreams project were present to open the exhibition together with Neda Noraie-Kia and Chrysiis Katsea from the Heinrich Böll Foundation Thessaloniki and me. 

After the official opening, all guests and attendees had the opportunity to get to know the individual portraits and stories behind the photographs, as well as the storytellers and project initiators. 

In addition to the exhibition in the Parliament, the 20 portraits will also be on display for a few weeks in Strasbourg City Hall.

Study: Legal vacuum – Criminalization of refugees in Greece

The study is in german, English and greek Language available.

The study I commissioned from Borderline Europe analyzes the criminalization of refugees as suspected smugglers in Greece. 

Trials last an average of 37 minutes, with the average prison sentence being 46 years. Most individuals are convicted based on the testimony of a police or coast guard person, who in 68 percent of cases is not even present during the proceedings. Persons convicted of smuggling are the second largest group in Greek prisons. These individuals are usually arrested immediately upon arrival, held in pre-trial detention for months, and have very limited opportunities to defend themselves

The judiciary is politically instrumentalized

These sentences are disproportionate and have no comprehensible connection to the crime of which the people are accused. The Greek judiciary is being politically instrumentalized to deter people from fleeing.

The people who drive the boat get discounts from the tugboats, they are mostly not tugboats themselves. The proceedings in which these accusations are heard are very short and violate basic standards of the rule of law. This is an infamous criminalization that the EU Commission and member states like Germany should take action against. 

It would be the task of the EU Commission to exert pressure on Greece so that rule-of-law standards are once again upheld there. Unfortunately, the Commission has so far sided with Greece. It supports the policy of deterrence and isolation of the external border states and looks the other way when people are mistreated there and deprived of their fundamental rights. 

81 Procedure observed

Those affected are usually arrested immediately upon arrival, held in pre-trial detention for months, and have very limited opportunities to defend themselves and receive assistance. The trials in which these charges are heard are very short and violate basic standards of fairness.

The report examines a total of 81 cases against 95 people arrested and tried for smuggling in Greece in eight different locations, namely Komotini, Thessaloniki, Rhodes, Samos, Lesvos, Crete, Syros and Kalamata.

The event to present the study will take place her here.