EU support to refugees in Tunisia
Delivered in Plenary - 28th September 2011
In Tunisia the departure of Ben Ali heralded the triumph of democracy over despotism. For the first time in generations, Tunisians have the right democratically to determine their own destiny. Under the new democratic leadership, stability has been restored in Tunis and the country is once more on the road to prosperity.
Tourists have returned and international businesses are now making new investments. Therefore a clear distinction must be drawn between genuine asylum seekers and economic migrants leaving Tunisia and other North African countries, coming from further afield, who are arriving on the EU shores in very large numbers; indeed more than 40 000 since January this year.
It is deplorable that in Lampedusa, a refugee reception centre has been razed to the ground by Tunisian refugees protesting at their imminent repatriation. The EU must have a fair but robust approach in dealing with this large influx of asylum seekers and, in my view, return – or help Tunisia return, if they are still on North African soil – individuals to their country of origin in the large majority of cases.
We must also redouble our efforts to apprehend those thuggish members of the Ben Ali, Gaddafi and Mubarak regimes, some of whom – bizarrely – may now be attempting to become bogus asylum seekers in the European Union. They should face the criminal justice system if they have blood on their hands.