Following the adoption of the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum proposed by the European Commission on Wednesday 23 September 2020, the Bishops of the European Union encourage the EU and its Member States to act in concrete solidarity and responsibility towards migrants and refugees.
Considering the dysfunctionalities of the current migration and asylum systems and the dramatic situations that have recently affected many migrants and their families in Europe, COMECE welcomes the initiative of the European Commission to set out a new and comprehensive framework with the aim of creating a fair and predictable migration management mechanism rebuilding trust between the Member States.
In view of the future negotiations, COMECE encourages the European Parliament and the Council to prioritize the protection of the human dignity and the promotion of the common good. The Bishops urge the EU and its Member States to recognize migrants and refugees as persons with dignity and fundamental rights, and not as numbers.
Using the words of Pope Francis, migrants have “a name, a face, and a story, as well as an inalienable right to live in peace and to aspire to a better future for their sons and daughters”.
The proposed EU package includes a number of positive developments such as the special treatment at the border for unaccompanied minors, quicker reply to asylum applicants and clarification of their rights and duties, access of migrants to the benefits of the European Pillar of Social Rights, paving the way for long term residence.
The EU and its Member States must protect asylum seekers and their families, fulfilling the obligation of non-refoulment to the country where they were at risk and supporting their resilience and full inclusion in the hosting society.
The clear reinforcement of the return policy included in the EU package should be balanced – according to COMECE – with a more generous approach towards social and economic migrants, opening broader legal pathways for their regular access to the European Union in a spirit of fraternal hospitality.
Regarding the relocation of asylum seekers across the EU, it is unclear how the mechanism will be implemented, as the proposed system is highly dependent on the decision of each Member State. Concerning this issue, COMECE calls on the EU and its Member States to improve and increase the support to those countries that geographically are more exposed to high influx of migrants and refugees.
As stated by Pope Francis, we have to prevent the Mediterranean Sea to turn into a vast cemetery, therefore COMECE reiterates that rescuing people in distress at sea is a moral and legal obligation that should respected by all State and non-State actors.