Dublin Convention must be enforced

Edward Leigh is a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the oldest international parliamentary assembly in the world, which meets in the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg. He delivered the following speech to PACE on 25 June 2015 in a debate on the migration crisis in the Mediterranean.

I emphasise that we all recognise that this is a massive human tragedy, and our sympathies are with all the migrants caught up in this appalling situation. Nothing that I will say takes anything away from that, but the fact is that we must take action. To a certain extent, it is our responsibility to provide aid, given our actions in Syria, Iraq and Libya. We all know that, but we must take action. There is no point in simply talking about solidarity; we have to try to take steps to stop the flow of migrants into Europe. Our societies simply cannot take this level of migration, and our people demand that we take action.

The fact is that this is a massive international conspiracy led by people traffickers and aided and abetted by naïve people who do not believe in borders. We must have secure borders, and talking in vague terms about solidarity will not do the trick. All that will happen if we let more in is that more and more will come in, which is not fair on them, and it is not fair on us. If we are determined enough, there are quite simple steps to take to deal with this problem and to reduce the pull factors.

For a start, we should go back to the international maritime conventions under which if you leave the Libyan coast and our navy stops you five or 10 miles out from the coast, you are returned to that coast. It is simply ludicrous that people, at great risk to their lives, are crossing the Mediterranean and being picked up by our navies, knowing that they will be taken to Italy. We have to return to the traditional humanitarian, maritime practice of picking people up and returning them to where they come from, otherwise more and more will keep coming.

We must enforce the Dublin Convention, which is not being enforced. Under that convention, you should be returned from the European Union country where you finally end up to where you entered the European Union. Only 3% are being returned, and the convention should be enforced. We should also enforce the Eurodac conventions. When you enter Italy, you should be fingerprinted. One would have thought that if you are a traumatised migrant arriving in Italy, you would be so happy that you would want to stay there. No, such people refuse to be fingerprinted, because they want to travel up through Italy to Germany, Sweden, France or Britain.

We must enforce traditional maritime practice and return people to where they come from, and we must enforce the Dublin Convention and the Eurodac conventions. If we do not take action, more and more will come, and our people will hold us responsible.