This is a section from an interview made with the Swedish politician Cecilia Malmström for the German newspaper Die Welt.
Anna Cecilia Malmström is a Swedish Politician currently serving as European Commissioner for Home Affairs in the Barroso Commission.
Die Welt: Madam Commissioner, in the warm months thousands of refugees from Syria, Eritrea and other African countries will again try to come to Europe with ramshackle boats across the Mediterranean Sea. What will you do in order to prevent such boat tragedies as that of one year earlier with a death toll of nearly 400 individuals off the coasts of Lampedusa?
Cecilia Malmström: We work in close cooperation with the Italians. The EU financially supports the Italian government regarding the border controls within the frame of the Frontex as well as the sea surveillance and the rescue operations of the Mare Nostrum mission. It is important that the asylum seekers be properly received and cared for in Italy – we also support this. We have signed so-called mobility partnerships with Tunisia and Morocco, we soon we will also sign an agreement with Jordan. The goal of this partnership is to create more legal ways for migration and mobility. Apart from this, the satellite surveillance (Eurosur) has also been improved, now immigrants in dire situation can be spotted faster.
Die Welt: Do European Governments comply sufficiently with their responsibilities towards the asylum seekers?
Malmström: No. I am convinced that the EU-Partners must do much more in order to help those who flee from their lands due to hunger, suffering and violence. The number of asylum seekers coming to Europe will most likely increase further in the next years, more and more immigrants will be looking for a way to Europe, and this for decades to come. As long as violence and poverty are present in many countries next to Europe, immigrants will come.
Die Welt: What could Europeans do in the short term?
Malmström: The immigrant problem is getting more and more acute, now it would be an urgent need for individual EU members to accept many more people than till now from the immigrant camps. 80.000 immigrants are relocated every year, the majority of them finding a new home in USA, Canada and Australia. In 2013 the EU countries were prepared to receive some 5000 relocated immigrants only – this is a shame. Not even half of the EU countries take part in the relocation program.
Die Welt: How could relocations be made more attractive to the member states?
Malmström: I confirm in the name of the European Commission that in the future, every EU country shall receive 6000 euros per immigrant relocated from the refugee camps for the purpose of reception and integration. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants live in refugee camps filled to the brim in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. This is an inhuman situation which we should not take in such an easy way. We must help urgently.
Die Welt: Will the European election victories of right-wing parties in some countries like UK and France lead to a decrease in what is now done for refugees?
Malmström: Yes, I fear that it could be so. First of all we should digest the results, and we need a strong political lead where extremists have won. But it is also clear that we will not leave unattended the fact that we must find long-term legal possibilities in order to make refugees possible to come to Europe. After the tragedy in Lampedusa, the same could be heard from all members of the EU: Such thing cannot happen again. But if that is so terrible, then countries must also act. I tell them: do not close your borders!
Die Welt: Why is legal immigration so important?
Malmström: Due to demographic developments, Europe will in the future need immigrants from third countries, engineers and nurses. Refugees can have a positive effect in the host countries. One is not a hopeless case just because one is a Syrian refugee. Many people coming from Syria are well educated, they want to work and help us, they want to be part of our society – and we should allow them to be that. It is an error to see refugees always as victims or burdens.
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