14 April 2015 Today a delegation of PEN members met with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and called for greater protection for refugees in Europe. The delegation included PEN International president John Ralston Saul, German PEN president Josef Haslinger, English PEN director Jo Glanville, PEN International Treasure Jarkko Tontti, former chair of the Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee of PEN International and current Vice-President of the Green Group in the European Parliament Josep Maria Terricabras, writers Nina George and Emine Sevgi Özdamar, and PEN International’s Europe researcher Cathal Sheerin. Explaining its refugee concerns, German PEN president Josef Haslinger and PEN International president John Ralston Saul delivered the appeal to President Schulz and stated that European nations should be obliged to provide protection to persecuted people, without reservation. The appeal which had among its first signatories German PEN honorary presidents Günter Grass and Christoph Hein, calls on the nations of Europe to create common, humane laws of asylum that are not driven by national interests, but instead by a spirit of solidarity and a sense of responsibility. Specifically, the delegation said that:
- Europe should come to the aid of people in desperate straits and provide them with routes of escape and humanitarian visas. Refugees should no longer have to risk their lives to come to Europe. If they do seek asylum, they should not be treated like criminals.
- Asylum seekers should be given the same basic standards of humane treatment in all EU member states and they must have the same access to a fair asylum process. People should be allowed to live where they have friends or contacts and not be forced to remain in the first country they enter.
- The financial costs should be distributed fairly between member states. We propose the creation of a European refugee fund, paid for by member countries according to their means. This fund would ensure that the fate of refugees is independent of regional prejudice or changing attitudes towards immigrants.
- The deaths of refugees should not be legitimised or tolerated in the name of protecting borders. The protection of human life must have the highest priority.
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