Campaigners need 1m signatures to get meeting with EU officials over asylum air directive

By on 03/08/2016 | Updated on 04/02/2022
Refugees are taking risky boat trips to Europe

The European Commission has given campaigners one year to collect 1m signatures for an initiative to abolish an EU directive widely blamed for forcing refugees into risky boat trips to Europe.

If enough people support the initiative against Directive 2001/51/EC which penalises transport companies allowing refugees to enter the EU via airplane, the EC will be forced to meet with campaigners, consider their proposals and potentially change EU law.

Airlines are, according to the directive, responsible for the costs of sending back anyone travelling without a valid visa or other travel documents.

While these rules do not apply to anyone with a right to refugee status, airlines must pay the deportation costs of anyone deemed to have arrived illegally. As the bills can run to thousands of dollars per person, this has in effect led to a blanket ban on travellers without documents.

This means anyone trying to find sanctuary in Europe has little option but to risk the dangerous sea voyage. Thousands die each year.

With the EU refugee crisis worsening over the last two years, several campaigns have emerged including ‘LetsFly2Europe’ and the ‘People4Soil’ initiative which urges the European Commission to “recognise soil as a shared heritage that needs EU level protection and develop a dedicated legally binding framework covering the main soil threats.”

Both initiatives have gained enough support to be officially registered as European Citizens’ Initiatives.

The registration of ‘LetsFly2Europe’ will take place on 2 September and the registration of the ‘People4Soil’ initiative will take place on 12 September.

In both cases, this will start a one-year process for each campaign to collect one million statements of support from at least seven different EU member states.

If the threshold is met, campaigners will get the chance to make their case to EU officials and give a formal presentation to the European Parliament.

The commission will then have to adopt a formal response setting out what action it will propose in response to the citizens’ initiative.

If it does decide to make changes, they will come in the form of a legislative proposal, which will be submitted to the legislator – generally the European Parliament and the Council or in some cases only the Council – and, if adopted, it becomes law.

However, the commission is not obliged to take any action at all and has the right to ignore the campaign, as long as it sets out its reasons for doing so.

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, with the vast majority arriving by sea.


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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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