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Source: Doctors Without Borders –

This session includes solidarity in its title, and yet: where is the evidence of genuine human solidarity?

EU member states have abused the term solidarity—not only have they failed in their collective responsibility to protect human life and respect fundamental human rights. They have used the lack of solidarity between states to evade their individual responsibilities.

Solidarity does not mean bargaining between states to negotiate who takes who, how many, at what price or with which conditions. Solidarity should be with those seeking safety; and Europe is failing.

In an effort to find political compromise, the needs of people have been sidelined.

Over the past five years, MSF teams have worked tirelessly to mitigate the most harmful consequences of European migration policies. Our staff has spoken out against policies which are directly responsible for unimaginable human suffering. Time and again, European nations and institutions have failed to act on their duty. What’s more, countries both within and outside Europe have taken this failure as an opportunity to roll back basic rights, starting a race to the bottom regarding the protection of human life.

Europe is in denial.

Official statements on tragedies—like the Moria refugee camp, or the violence on the Balkan route, or the horror of Libyan detention camps—fail to acknowledge that these are disasters made and paid for by EU money and EU member states. After the recent fires in Moria, we heard “no more Morias”. But what does this mean when we see such camps on all of the EU-supported hotspot islands – Samos, Lesvos, Kos, Chios, Leros? Year after year, we are told that conditions in camps will improve. But year after year, our staff witnesses the deterioration of the physical and mental health of those held in the camps.

And while we are glad about the relocation of children with chronic conditions and their families, as well as the transfer of some unaccompanied minors, such limited relocation efforts represent a tiny part of the overall solution. How can the EU evacuate a few hundred people today, all while redeveloping a system of containment and deterrence, which will inevitably reproduce the same harmful consequences?

An inhumane “new normal” has also been accepted in the Central Mediterranean.

Here, EU leaders have ignored their international obligation to provide search and rescue capacity in the Central Mediterranean Sea. They have avoided using European naval ships in the vicinity of the search and rescue zone, and they have interrupted dedicated state capacity. They found it very easy to agree to leave the region’s search and rescue responsibilities in the hands of the Libyan Coast Guard, and to expand the Libyan search and rescue zone.

As a direct result, tens of thousands of people have been intercepted and returned to Libya over the last few years. There, they face inhumane conditions, arbitrary detention, and exploitation. The Libyan Coast Guard has an abysmal human rights record, but European states have few concerns in supplying them with funding, equipment, and intelligence. The aim appears to be to prevent people from reaching European shores, at literally any cost.

But Europe’s actions have extended beyond its abandonment of responsibilities. A long campaign to delegitimize, slander, and obstruct NGO activities has also been in operation. MSF and other NGOs have been targeted with unsubstantiated accusations, ranging from collusion with smugglers, to transporting waste, to non-compliance with technical specifications. This has been a sinister and concerted campaign, which has decimated civilian search and rescue efforts. Six NGO ships have been detained or effectively blocked in Italian ports. New reasons are always found to prevent these vessels from saving lives.

The European Commission is not acting against the criminalization of aid. The protections offered by the new migration pact are very weak in this capacity. Furthermore, it legitimizes existing practices which misuse safety regulations in order to impede the work of NGO vessels. If European states are not willing to save lives at sea, at the very least stop blocking NGOs that refuse to abandon this basic humanitarian duty.

While people are being demonized for the most human act of seeking safety and protection, and while humanitarian aid is being prevented and penalized, more lives are being lost.

Without a fundamental shift and the recognition of Europe’s responsibility, we will simply witness even more of the same.

You must reject this “new normal” and assume the collective responsibility to ensure safe pathways to seek safety in Europe, to proactively prevent deaths at sea, to provide dignified reception, and to protect those in need.

This is not just a matter of solidarity and responsibility. This is an obligation.

Your obligation!