France seeking "collective solution" to EU migrant crisis

EU – Italy/Spain/migrant ship – Statement by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

Paris, 14 June 2018

Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke today to Josep Borrell, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation.

The [French] Minister welcomed the Spanish proposal to open the port of Valencia to boats transporting people picked up by the Aquarius, thereby ending a dangerous humanitarian situation.

He confirmed that the French authorities were prepared to lend their support to Spain by taking in to France those passengers on the Aquarius who meet the criteria for the right to asylum, once OFPRA [French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons] has examined their situation in Spain. Spain welcomed this proposal.

Beyond this humanitarian gesture on the part of Spain, the two ministers agreed that the European Council of 28-29 June must be dedicated to in-depth discussions on migratory issues. A sustainable, coherent response must be found to this challenge that covers asylum, border protection, readmission, cooperation with third parties and legal migration, in a manner that respects European values./.

European Union – Migration policy – Reply by M. Edouard Philippe, Prime Minister, to a question in the National Assembly (excerpts)

Paris, 12 June 2018

(…)

For a few dozen hours – 72 to be precise, as you said – a ship sailing under the Gibraltarian flag and carrying 629 passengers on board has been seeking a destination so that men, women and children in urgent need can be given assistance.

In this type of emergency situation, international law provides for a simple and clear principle whose very purpose is to guarantee people’s safety: the country nearest the ship concerned must offer it a safe port. So it’s Italy which, in this case, should shoulder its responsibilities. It’s chosen not to do so and therefore to fail to recognize the international obligations incumbent on it. I’m not unaware of the difficulties Italy has encountered for several years, as have many other European Union countries, in taking in some of the people crossing the Mediterranean, in this case the central Mediterranean. But it so happens – we have to be clear about things – that the Italian government has chosen not to comply with its international obligations to guarantee people’s safety. I’m highlighting that non-compliance.

Spain has said it’s ready to take in the boat: we’re happy about that. I inform you that we’re clearly ready to help the Spanish authorities take in and analyse the situation of the boat’s passengers, particularly those who would like to be granted refugee status. It’s clear, on the one hand, that France will shirk absolutely none of its international obligations on this, but on the other hand that there’s no hope, in the short or even the medium term, of a national solution resolving the problem. This extremely cruel and painful episode shows that the response can only be European.

You asked me about France’s position. Next Tuesday and Wednesday, at the Franco-German Council of Ministers to be held in Berlin, the President and the Chancellor will discuss the issue. Then, at the European Council at the end of June, we intend to make proposals to finally achieve a European solution.

However, let’s not pay lip service: as you know, not all European countries want a collective solution. So it will be difficult to obtain, but France’s goal will be to achieve that.

I’ll say a final word on migration issues. I’d like to tell the nation’s elected representatives that no other country in Europe has done as much as France to stabilize the political situation in Mali. No other European country is doing as much as France to try and help stabilize the Sahel. No other country has done as much as France to try and stabilize the political situation in Libya. No country other than France has implemented joint missions with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: representatives of the UNHCR and OFPRA – the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons – have been to Libya’s southern border together to ascertain which of the people ready to cross the country were liable to benefit from refugee status and be hosted in France. That’s not negligible! We must be proud of it!./.

Published on 19/06/2018

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