Alleviating the suffering of refugees

 

Alleviating the suffering of refugees

The Cabinet has discussed the decisions made at the Meeting on the Western Balkans Migration Route on 25 October. A 17-point plan of action was agreed, laying out emergency measures. These include creating reception capacities along the Western Balkans route.

Stream of refugeesThe meeting aimed to imrpove consultation and coordination among the states along the Western Balkans routePhoto: imago/Pixsell

The President of the European Commission invited the heads of state or government from eight EU member states, Macedonia, Albania and Serbia to meet with representatives of the EU institutions, the Luxembourg EU Presidency, the Netherlands which will be the next nation to assume the Presidency and UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) on 25 October in Brussels.

The meeting aimed to better coordinate the actions of the individual states along the Western Balkans route. Emergency measures were also to be initiated to enable the states to better manage the refugee flows along the route. In a joint statement, participants agreed on a 17-point plan of action.

Bringing order to the refugee situation

Chancellor Angela Merkel saw the focus on the humanitarian aspects of the crisis. "Today it was first and foremost a question of alleviating the suffering of refugees along the so-called Western Balkans route. We are all committed to upholding humanitarian and human values. We have all signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The images we have seen over the last few days did not correspond to the values to which we feel committed," she stressed after the consultations.

The main concern is to restore order to the refugee situation, she said. It is important to set up waiting and rest areas swiftly, and ensure that refugees can be properly cared for, added the Chancellor.

17-point plan adopted

The 17-point plan embraces both immediate and medium-term measures. The European Commission is mandated to monitor implementation of the measures. Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU Presidency, and the Netherlands which will take over at the helm are to communicate the matters discussed to all 28 EU member states. The next appropriate forum for this at political level will be the special meeting of ministers of home affairs on 9 November.

The short-term measures are:

  • Improving the way states keep one another informed and making better use of common capacities: contact persons are to be nominated and a weekly exchange on the implementation of measures and the situation along the Western Balkans route set up.
  • Uwe Corsepius, Head of the European Policy Directorate-General at the Federal Chancellery will act as German contact person.
  • Within the next few weeks 400 police officers are to be deployed to Slovenia to improve border management. Five police officers are to come from Germany.
  • Humanitarian supplies and services along the route are to be improved, with the support of UNHCR. Affected states are called on to notify the European Commission of their needs and to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism if necessary.
  • The European Commission will coordinate aid measures and provide funding. Greece has already been pledged 5.9 million euros from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

The medium-term measures include:

  • Establishing a total reception capacity of 100,000 places, 50,000 in Greece and 50,000 in the other states along the route. These will provide waiting and rest areas for refugees.
  • The EU-Turkey Action Plan is to be implemented.
  • There is to be closer cooperation with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan on the return of migrants. The European Commission has been called on to agree on readmission agreements, also with Afghanistan.

Implementing the EU-Turkey Action Plan

On Sunday the Chancellor explained how important it is to cooperate with Turkey in order to effectively cope with refugee flows. Germany will support the efforts of the European Commission to adopt an action plan with Turkey.

On 27 October the European Commission announced that it would raise the level of co-financing for support provided through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to countries in need of assistance in the face of the refugee crisis from 55 per cent to 85 per cent. Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia have activated the mechanism in recent weeks to obtain tents, blankets, sanitary equipment and other essential goods to help the refugees over the winter.

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