Ireland’s Brian Hayes said the EU had “failed to respond” to the migrant crisis at its peak in 2015 and 2016 and more needed to be done to protect the vulnerable this coming summer.
The Dublin MEP for the Fine Gael party said the migrant issue “has not gone away” and urged immediate action to protect those risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean.
He said: “The issue might not be in the headlines now, but it could be very quickly. It is still a real issue of humanitarian relief.
“Already this year 559 have died. From 2015 to 2017 over 6,000 died making the perilous journey.
“As the Summer months approach and the Mediterranean sea becomes calmer – we can expect this number to increase. This issue has not gone away.”
He said a fatal lack of coordination in Brussels, in which leaders “could not agree a way forward” and “member states did not do enough”, led to the crisis escalating wildly.
Europe has been divided by the migrant crisis, with some countries like Germany initially exercising an open-doors policy before bowing down to pressure from the public – as well as the EU’s border states.
And Mr Hayes said a similar split in the face of a humanitarian crisis could happen again unless the EU faced the issue head on.
Mr Hayes said: “We must work to limit the crisis. An essential part of this is to ensure that our external borders are secure, that we can process asylum applications more swiftly and that we have a strong returns policy for people not in need of protection.”
Instead, he said, the EU needed to try something different and be “ambitious”.
Mr Hayes concluded: “Building walls will not solve this problem. Neither can the EU provide a home for everyone. It has to be managed.
“The best way never to return to the chaos of three years ago is to do something now. The only way to prevent another crisis is to act as one.”