The EU cannot rely purely on its border security agency Frontex to help the Italian island of Lampedusa cope with the migration crisis in the Mediterranean, says the European Parliament in a resolution adopted on Tuesday. MEPs urge the Council to put in place an action plan for the resettlement of refugees but also stress the need for measures to reduce unemployment in migrants' countries of origin and of transit.

How can a single country like Italy, let alone Malta, cope with thousands of illegal immigrants fleeing from the humanitarian crisis in North Africa? "Frontex cannot be the main tool", argue MEPs, who want the Council to set up a burden-sharing action plan to help resettle refugees from the region and provide support for displaced persons.

This would mean invoking Article 80 of the EU Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which cites the principle of solidarity and fair burden-sharing among all Member States on policies relating to the management of border checks, asylum and immigration - including the financial dimension.

EU-Libya Agreement

MEPs are dissatisfied that "the only option available" was the suspension during the uprising of the EU-Libya Cooperation Agenda on migration. They say the suspension "should be revoked as soon as there is a new transitional government willing to promote a democratic and human rights based implementation of the agreement". Similar migration agreements should be reached with other EU neighbouring countries, adds the resolution.

This would help create a more effective system to manage labour migration in transit countries like Libya and increase their capacity to attract and integrate migrants from their southern borders. The resolution also calls for the EU budget after 2013 to include "emergency and recovery funds" to allow a rapid response, and hence relief and assistance for migrants in distress as well as shelter in the EU for human rights defenders at risk.

Stimulating growth at all levels

But the only effective long-term solution to prevent a mass influx of migrants from unstable regions is to create jobs and improve living conditions in the countries of origin and transit. The EU's foreign policy should complement EU policies on migration, emphasise MEPs. They propose that EU funds be targeted - both in origin and transit countries - at long-term projects to create jobs, support SMEs, provide microcredit facilities, empower women and minority groups and maximise local economic development.

At the same time, sanctions should be imposed on countries which fail to respect their governance obligations under trade agreements. A similar conditionality clause should apply to EU development assistance and humanitarian aid, say MEPs.

The resolution was drafted by Fiorello Provera (EFD, IT) and adopted by show of hands.

Procedure: Non-legislative resolution