The European Commission has asked governments to rethink their approach to border-control and immigration following the deaths of at least 274 migrants last week in a shipwreck near the Italian island of Lampedusa. This tragedy is the latest (and worst) in a long list; nearly 20,000 people are thought to have perished since 2003 attempting to make the perilous crossing from Africa to Europe by sea.
The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, has said more should be done at the EU level and called for Frontex, the EU’s border agency, to be given an increased capacity to launch search and rescue patrols. Currently, Frontex has only a small number of craft in the Mediterranean – four ships, two helicopters and two planes – to help Italy intercept boats.
But immigration is a controversial subject, and national governments are unlikely to want to pool their approach. Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister, has argued that he sees no reason for Europe to change its policies towards immigration in response to the Lampedusa tragedy, whilst the Conservative government in Britain is keen to be seen as tough on immigration and sees the EU as part of the problem instead of the solution.
We recently took some of your questions on immigration to European policy-makers to see how they would react. First, we asked Brian Hayes, Irish Minister of State for Public Service Reform (whose party belongs to the centre-right ideology in our Vote2014), to respond to a question from Ivan on how the EU can help states to better integrate immigrants who arrive in their countries.
Next, we spoke to Oscar Wåglund Söderström, State Secretary at the Swedish Ministry of EU Affairs (whose party belongs to the liberal democratic ideology in our Vote2014), and asked him to respond to a question from Christoforos on how Europe can continue to attract highly-skilled immigrant labour.
Finally, we put the same question to Tytti Tuppurainen, a Member of the Finnish Parliament (whose party belongs to the social democratic ideology in our Vote2014), for her reaction.