The demonstration "We Aren't Fish," in Rome, against the closure of ports to migrants; the posters read "Indifference Kills" and "I Am The Other" | Photo: ANSA/ANGELO CARCONI
The demonstration "We Aren't Fish," in Rome, against the closure of ports to migrants; the posters read "Indifference Kills" and "I Am The Other" | Photo: ANSA/ANGELO CARCONI

The campaign wanted to force the EU to introduce more welcoming asylum and migration laws. While it did not gather the necessary signatures across Europe, the campaign exceeded expectations in Italy - and beyond.

A European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) campaign called "Welcoming Europe" gathered over 65,000 signatures in Italy, a full 10,000 more than the envisaged minimum quota. The campaign was launched on April 20, 2018 as a way to call on the European Commission to change certain laws regarding the protection of refugees and migrants. 

It proposed three objectives: 
  • strengthening humanitarian corridors for refugees
  • abolishing laws "punish[ing] volunteers and civil society organisations for offering humanitarian help or shelter for refugees" 
  • protecting victims of abuse and exploitation
More than 140 organisations were involved in the campaign, among them Oxfam, ActionAid, Seawatch, Amnesty International and Baobab Experience.  

Required signatures not reached on European level 

While the campaign was quite successful in Italy, it didn't reach the one million signatures across Europe. If that had been the case, the European Parliament would have been required to offer a public hearing and the European Commission would have been obliged to respond to the proposal.

However, some of the campaign's proposals have been implemented following pressure by the campaign's sponsor.  

The campaign called for strengthening sponsorship programs, which are the basis for humanitarian corridors; and for modifying the system to access European funds by broadening the types of entities (local entities, civil society) that can sponsor humanitarian corridor programs. 

Will EU introduce new humanitarian visa?

On October 24, 2018, the European Parliament adopted the 2019 EU budget, which allocated part of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) to local authorities in order to allow them direct access to asylum and integration programs, including community sponsorship. 

On December 11, the European Parliament approved a resolution on humanitarian visas calling on the European Commission to present, by March 31, a legislative proposal to institute a European humanitarian visa. The visa would be issued at EU member states' embassies and consulates abroad to those in search of protection, so that they could reach Europe without having to risk their lives. 

Demonstration on March 2 in Milan 

The European Parliament also adopted a resolution regarding the creation of guidelines for member states to prevent the criminalisation of humanitarian aid. Marco De Ponte, secretary general of ActionAid, said that in Italy, the proposals and goals of Welcoming Europe will be presented in a document to candidates running for the European Parliament. "We will gather, with thousands of people, on March 2 in Milan for the demonstration 'People For Saying Yes to a Europe Without Walls'," De Ponte said. 
 

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