The article “EU pledges greater support in wake of Lampedusa tragedy” (10-16 October) did not consider the humanitarian dimension or the basic right of accessing international protection, enshrined in international refugee law. While the smuggling of migrants by sea accounts for only a small proportion of the total number of migrants smuggled worldwide, it is likely to claim the highest number of deaths among smuggled migrants.
The tightening of border controls and the scarcity of options to enter the EU legally have pushed migrants and asylum-seekers to resort to riskier routes. This leaves them at risk of smuggling and exploitation, adding to their vulnerability.
Furthermore, the responsibility for migration management is increasingly shifted towards countries of origin and transit. The absence of effective legal avenues into EU territory for those fleeing to guarantee their survival threatens the EU's commitments to the right to access international protection and the principle of ‘non-refoulement' – that is, an obligation not to return a victim of persecution to their persecutor.
We welcome moves that can lead towards a quicker identification of boats in distress and the safe rescue of those in need. But we must also work together to ensure that international refugee law and standards of protection are respected at EU borders and beyond, and that illegal entry for the purpose of seeking international protection is not penalised. For instance, legal avenues such as promoting the issuing of humanitarian and protection visas, and resettling higher numbers of refugees, should be further explored by the EU and its member states.
The debate on protected entry to set up safe and effective legal avenues to access protection in the EU must be advanced as a matter of urgency.