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EU – Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize – Exposed by Refugee Disaster
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Naturefriends call for fight against underlying causes and for revision of asylum and refugee laws
Vienna, 18 October 2013
At their Annual Conference in Ilawa/Poland, the chairmen of the Naturefriends organisations, acting on behalf of 500’000 members, demand an immediate halt to the treatment of refugees, which is in open contravention to human rights. Each and everyone coming to Europe ought to be entitled to humanitarian aid in the form of decent shelter and procedural fairness.

Over the past 15 years, more than 20’000 people met their deaths in the attempt to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. A tragic climax was reached, when several hundred people died off the coasts of Lampedusa and Malta within just a few days. Instead of receiving support at their destinations, survivors have to face criminal charges and to reckon with fines of up to 5’000 euro. Fishermen who offer assistance, may be brought to court for aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

Fortress Europe: human rights infringed by measures taken to fend off refugees
A considerable number of European human rights organisations criticise Europe’s border control agency Frontex for gross violations of human rights. Even though maritime rescue is anchored in the Geneva Refugee Convention, Frontex has no explicit mandate for such operations. In manifest contravention of the obligation to rescue refugees, Frontex is much rather tasked with advancing the fight against “irregular migration”. On top of this, the EU is bent on further aggravating the situation. Owing to the hardware-upgrade of maritime surveillance with satellites and drones, refugees who are compelled to leave their home countries because they are destitute and hopeless, will in future be forced to opt for even smaller and less reliable boats.

Revision of asylum and refugee legislation
In addition to an immediate revision of national and European asylum and refugee legislation, Naturefriends demand an increase in the national and international funds dedicated to development cooperation. “The fact that a number of rich European countries pay a mere fraction of the internationally agreed 0.7 % of GDP, is an absolute disgrace”, states Manfred Pils, President of Naturefriends International.

Pils also holds that “asylum seekers should have access to orderly asylum procedures at the EU embassies in their home countries. This would help to reduce the rush of refugees already in their home countries. Moreover, the policy of ‘battening down the hatches’ is out of all reason, considering that Europe clearly stands in need of a coordinated immigration of citizens”. In the years to come, growing numbers of Africans will crowd into the European labour markets. Naturefriends demand that upon their reception, refugees should be able to rely on humanitarian treatment, predictability of legal decisions, equal distribution among the EU states, abolition of the third-country regulation as well as on orderly immigration procedures including labour and residence permits.

Those who wish to stop the influx of refugees, will have to address the underlying causes
"Consistent and broad-based international cooperation and measures taken in the home countries are the only means of preventing refugees from being caught in the web of Europe’s refugee policies”, said Manfred Pils by way of conclusion. Europe must radically change its policies vis-à-vis Africa. The funds currently channelled to misguided export promotion or to reinforcing the “Fortress Europe”, should be more profitably invested in more equitable social and sustainable economic development.

Queries and contact:
Manfred Pils, President
Naturefriends International
Diefenbachgasse 36/9; 1150 Vienna
Tel.: +43 (0) 664 82 85 204
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Anita Pinter, Press and Communication               
Naturefriends International                   
Diefenbachgasse 36/9; 1150 Vienna               
Tel.: +43 (0) 1 892 3877-24                     
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