Irregular immigration by sea in the Euro-Mediterranean region

The EU Member States with a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea have been faced with a rapid surge of illegal immigration by sea in the last couple of years. This includes Member States worst affected by the financial and economic crisis. This phenomenon is partly a consequence of the "Arab Spring", which has seen thousands of persons escaping from repression, social unrest, or even civil war. This influx of illegal immigrants is adding new challenges to the already severe financial and social difficulties faced by those Member States.

At the same, the human rights situation facing many of the immigrants is precarious, and a number of Member States have been reprimanded by NGOs working on immigration issues, or by the European Commission, for breaching the Fundamental Charter of Human Rights of the EU and as well as EU rules on immigration.

The opinion will set out civil society's perspective on the dual challenge which EU Member States face in dealing with recent waves of immigrants and at the same time fulfilling - or in some cases failing to fulfil - their duty in guaranteeing immigrants' human rights, be it in detention or whilst on high seas. This issue is particularly topical since the European Commission and European Court of Justice are coming increasingly under pressure to act against Member States that fail to meet EU rules.

It would appear that a coherent approach to the problem of illegal immigration is needed, involving civil society, the EU institutions, the EU Members States, as well as civil society and the governments of the southern and eastern Mediterranean region, in order to achieve a solution that satisfies the needs of all parties involved.