european students’ union

Closure of ports goes against the 1951 Refugee Convention

June 11, 2018

The European Students’ Union (ESU) condemns the closure of the ports  and calls for the entire European Union to act in solidarity, guaranteeing access to safe ports and re-establishing cooperative mechanisms on the issue of migration.

“We are saddened to witness how refugees and asylum seekers are being rejected humanitarian aid, while European countries are putting the blame on each other and pushing the responsibility from one side to the other.” says Simona Gamonte, Human Rights and Solidarity Coordinator

Neither Malta, nor Italy were respecting the 1951 Refugee Convention in regards to the principle of non-refoulement. This principle applies wherever the “State exercises its authority, including beyond its borders, for example when intercepting ships on the high seas. All refugees are entitled to protection from refoulement – including those who have not been formally recognized as such.” (1951 Refugee Convention)

The Aquarius boat was locked outside European shores,  in the Mediterranean sea. There were 629 people on board, out of which 123  unaccompanied minors, 11 little children and 7  pregnant women. They are asylum seekers that have been rescued at sea, after having left the Libyan coasts.  The boat was not big enough for all of them and many need urgent medical treatments that cannot be provided by the doctors already on board with them.

Italy has closed its ports, calling for Malta to accept Aquarius. The main argument: Refugees need to stay in the first country they reach before being able to relocate, which is perceived as an unfair burden on Southern European countries, such as Italy. Denying access to port for this boat is against the European Convention on Human Rights, with main regards to articles 2 and 3.

On the issue of migration, Europe’s southern countries need more EU cooperation and international solidarity. Nonetheless, the re-negotiation of the international agreements cannot be done while putting at risk so many lives.

ESU is a supporter of refugees and asylum seekers rights through its project Together Moving Forward, a project that promotes inclusion and building positive refugee-host interactions across Europe, in particular in the area of Higher Education.

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