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Europe needs more legal entry routes for refugees

October 3, 2013 witnessed a tragedy off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. A boat filled with around 500 refugees caught fire and sank, and over 300 people died. How far apart are the continents of Europe and Africa - really?

Every person on the boat that was lost had paid a large amount of money to the people traffickers who were responsible for the journey, said the BBC, and these smugglers were also accused of subjecting their passengers to torture and rape. During the days following the spread of the news of the tragedy, leaders from across the globe expressed sadness and concern about migration policies that had once again shown themselves to be both harmful and lethal. Not least, a large number of different EU spokespersons emphasised the importance of improved systems for those attempting to escape a live of extreme poverty.

Mixed messages from Swedish decision makers

“The more Europe closes her borders, the more victims we will see in boats that sink in the Mediterranean,” said EU Minister Birgitta Ohlsson (Swedish Liberals). “Co-ordinate measures, increase resources and open legal routes into Europe,” said EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström (Swedish Liberals). But at the same time Fredrik Reinfeldt (Swedish Conservatives) said no to putting money towards the search for survivors, and explained that what was needed, first and foremost, was for countries other than Sweden to show a greater responsibility for receiving refugees. While it is true that Sweden receives a large number of refugees by comparison with many of the other EU countries, Sweden still has an important role to play within the Union. Moreover, within Sweden there are major differences in how many refugees are received by different municipalities. It is evident that there is work left to do here. 

The walls of Europe

And how open are the borders of Europe actually? Time and again, politicians emphasise the importance of Europe creating more legal routes for refugees into her various countries. Over 17,000 deaths were nonetheless documented in connection with attempts to cross these controversial borders between 1993 and 2012 alone. There are a large number of opinions as to what should be done, but the number of people facing desperate situations is still increasing. More action is needed; solutions that are concrete, humane and feasible.