Today (3rd October) marks the 10-year anniversary of the tragic shipwreck that claimed the lives of 368 migrants off Italy’s Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. Ten years later, the European Union’s approach to sea crossings continues to be tainted by inaction and indifference, characterized by policies centred around deterrence, repatriation, and collaboration with non-democratic governments.
Voluntary search and rescue initiatives are continuously hampered by governments, while there are no state-led naval missions focused on saving lives in the Mediterranean. Although the moral imperative to rescue individuals at sea is firmly embedded in the seafaring tradition and mandated by maritime law, the uncertainty surrounding the timing and location for disembarking rescued individuals, along with concerns about potential expenses associated with diversions and delays, act as deterrents that hinder merchant vessels from fulfilling their responsibilities.
The Mediterranean is the deadliest known migration route in the world; more than at least 28,106 have died in the Mediterranean over the past ten years, according to the International Organization for Migration. And more than 2,500 migrants have died or gone missing in 2023 alone. The Mediterranean Sea has become a graveyard for thousands of people, many of whom are fleeing conflict, persecution, and extreme poverty. These are not mere numbers but human lives, filled with aspirations and dreams.
A lack of coordination on how to share responsibility for assistance among EU member states continues to hinder any rescue efforts. Without urgent and timely state-led interventions and proper reception systems, this number will continue to rise. It is imperative for the EU to live up to its values and responsibilities by providing robust support and protection for those in need. The Member States must demonstrate solidarity and compassion, working together to establish a comprehensive and sustainable approach to address the root causes of migration and ensure the safe passage of refugees across the Mediterranean.
The European Union must collaborate closely with its Member States to realize the following vital objectives:
- Strengthen Search and Rescue Operations: Increase resources and efforts to enhance search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, including adequate funding, equipment, and cooperation with humanitarian organizations on the ground.
- Establish Safe and Legal Pathways: Develop safe and legal pathways for refugees, such as humanitarian visas and expanded family reunification programs, to prevent them from resorting to dangerous journeys and falling into the hands of human traffickers.
- Promote Fair and Efficient Asylum Procedures: Implement fair and efficient asylum procedures, ensuring that refugees are provided with timely access to legal aid, protection, and proper reception conditions.
- Enhance Cooperation and Responsibility-Sharing: Foster increased cooperation among EU Member States, as well as with countries of origin and transit, to jointly address the migration challenge. This includes equitable responsibility-sharing mechanisms to alleviate the burden on frontline countries and provide adequate support for hosting and integrating refugees.
- Address Root Causes: Tackle the root causes of displacement, including conflict, poverty, and climate change, by investing in peacebuilding, development, and sustainable solutions that contribute to the well-being and stability of affected communities.
Read our reaction to the European Commission’s President 10 point-plan for Lampedusa here.