Boat refugees across the Mediterranean

Photo: UNHCR

On 20 April 2015, Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (PRIO) discussed the challenges of managing refugees entering Europe across the Mediterranean by boat, in the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s current affairs program (NRK2 – Aktuelt).

In the interview, Jumbert states that the motives of the refugees determine whether they get to stay in Europe or not, and points out that one of Europe’s long term border surveillance objectives in the Mediterranean, including the border-control  operation Triton, has been to examine and sift out rightful asylum-seekers from so-called illegal migrants. Commenting on the current practice, she highlights that it is highly inappropriate to perform such screening processes at sea, and that evaluation of rights to international protection must be made on land by competent authorities.  She also emphasizes that humanitarian considerations must come first, in a situation where many are at risk of drowning.

Discussing the EU-countries’ assistance to Italy and Greece, who have had the greatest number of refugees arriving by sea, Jumbert points out that the European countries have a shared responsibility to deal with so-called boat refugees. In practice however, the states who receive the migrants have carried most of the burden. As part of the Dublin Regulation, Europe’s current practice is that the refugees’ claims have to be handled by the state in which the asylum seeker first enters. Jumbert states that this amplifies the unequal sharing of responsibilities among the EU states.

Comments on the challenges of refugee flows to Europe were also made by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Tuva Raanes Bogsnes (NRC), Terje Einarsen (University of Bergen), Anniken Huitfeldt (Labour Party) and Kristian Norheim (Progress Party).

See the interview with Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (in Norwegian) here.