Carlotta Sami is the spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, in Southern Europe. We spoke with her in Rome about Europe’s obligations to protect the rights of refugees ahead of the upcoming negotiations among European leaders.
In the proposed European plan for creating platforms for migrant landings in Africa, you and the IOM would be carrying out a fundamental role.
We have never seen or received such a proposal. As regards to the regional division of landings, we are asking for a planned mechanism for arrivals that could include several countries. It must be based on prior agreements with the states that will be receiving migrants, agreements that will have the purpose of getting rescued people to a safe harbor as soon as possible. And also of ensuring that there are no more standoffs like we have seen in recent weeks.
Do you mean that before such a plan is set up, it is necessary to identify the countries that are willing to accept migrants?
Exactly. We can also agree that it shouldn’t be only Italy who needs to accept them, of course, but the mechanism should be determined beforehand and should assign a number of responsibilities, together with the commitment to receive rescued people in several ports. As for the issue of solidarity among European countries, the moment of landing should be disconnected from the phase of the examination of asylum requests, and a quick and easy mechanism should be established for relocating asylum seekers among all the states of the European Union.
The Dublin treaty reform approved by the European Parliament provides for automatic and mandatory quotas, but this mechanism is precisely what some are trying to block.
This is true, its functioning is being impeded. Our job is to try to get it affirmed at the European level. Another important point concerns asylum request processes that are external to the European Union. All the countries in the world right now are discussing the Global Compact on Refugees, which is set to be adopted later this year in New York. We think that Europe could, in certain ways, put forward proposals that could help define the provisions of this pact on a global level. But if Europe proposes an outsourcing of these processes instead of accepting and sharing the responsibility for them, this would not be a step in the right direction. Limiting the responsibility of the European countries by limiting the availability for asylum in Europe is the opposite of the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees.
And wouldn’t the outsourcing of asylum request procedures mean substantial alterations to the right of refugees to seek international protection?
Of course. The right to seek asylum should not be confused with resettlement, which concerns a situation in which there are people who have already been received in non-European countries and who are given the chance to get to safe Western countries.