European Parliament After visiting the refugee camps in Tunisia, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) called on EU member states to show solidarity with the Tunisian people and authorities that have been dealing with a massive influx of immigrants from Libya by helping to resettle the few thousand migrants that can’t be repatriated. Delegation leader Simon Busuttil told us more in an interview.
1. What impressions have you taken away from the visit to the camps?
It has been a remarkable experience. We had seen a lot on television, when following the news about Libya, about people going to Tunisia. We decided, as an EP delegation, to come here and see it first-hand. It has been remarkable to see what these people are going through.
2. You told people on the ground that “you’re here to listen to them”. What did you hear and learn?
We listened to the stakeholders – the refugees, the organisations, the Tunisian authorities. And thanks to that we moved from the listening stage to the stage of understanding.
I think understanding the situation is crucial for the EP, which is involved in policy- and decision-making. The key thing with this kind of mission is getting first-hand experience of the situation and the difficulties so that when we go back we can take better decisions based on the experience.
3. Can the EU react quickly enough to emergency situations?
The EU acts extremely quickly when it comes to financial solidarity. It is the best donor in the world, and the quickest to send humanitarian support through money.
We will encourage the Commission to go on doing this and we are satisfied with what has been done – €100 million has already been committed to the humanitarian process here, €70 million of which is already being used.
But when it comes to action that goes beyond, unfortunately the European mechanism stalls a bit. And when it comes to sensitive issues like moving or resettling people, the process is completely blocked.
The time has come when we need to go beyond financial solidarity. If 3000 or 4000 people are blocked in the camp in Choucha, facing temperatures of 43°C and sandstorms every afternoon, the only way is to go towards solidarity such as resettlement.
Over half a million people have moved from Libya to Tunisia. Of these, only a few thousand remain who have no place to go. All the others have been sent home. It’s up to us now as Europeans to carry the responsibility for these people. It’s a goodwill gesture to resettle these people amongst the 27 states in the EU, to show the Tunisian people that we appreciate all what they’ve done.