Brussels, 13 May 2014 — This week a boat carrying 400 migrants sank off the coast of Lampedusa. Current reports estimate that up to 40 persons may have died with many more gone missing.
“Every day that the EU dithers on creating safe and legal ways for protection seekers to come to Europe, more people die”, says Philip Amaral, JRS Europe’s Advocacy and Communications Coordinator.
“These tragedies happen because the EU has failed to establish a system that enables people to come to Europe safely, legally and with dignity. In this case we commend the Italian authorities for doing all they can to rescue the migrants. But rescue-at-sea is not a sustainable policy for protection. For that, we need EU member states to agree on new legal channels to come to Europe”, says Mr Amaral.
Commenting on the tragedy, JRS Italy director Fr Giovanni La Manna said, “Although Mare Nostrum [Italy’s search-and-rescue operation] continues to save lives, it is not enough to stop the smuggling of human beings which is the only option for thousands of men, women and children to obtain protection in the EU.”
In a press statement issued yesterday, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström deplored the continued loss of life in the Mediterranean and made a strong call for EU member states to “put words into action”.
“I call on all Member States to give concrete and effective follow up to the actions identified in the Action Plan designed by the European Commission, and in particular to engage in resettling refugees directly from the camps outside the EU and opening new legal channels to come legally”, she said.
In June, EU heads of state are expected to discuss the European Commission’s plan from its Task Force Mediterranean. In the plan, the Commission outlines several actions EU states can take to address the flow of migrants coming to southern Europe.
However according to JRS Europe, much of this plan focuses too heavily on preventing irregular migration rather than enabling protection seekers to come safely and legally.
“The discussion on this issue must move forward from preventing irregular migration to actually saving lives”, says Mr Amaral. “Each person who perishes at sea represents a life that was filled with expectations and hopes for safety. Europe can no longer deny that”.
Each person who perishes at sea represents a life that was filled with expectations and hopes for safety. Europe can no longer deny that.