Deaths on the Mediterranean: European States should create legal, safe migration channels

Over 700 have died or have been reported missing in a period of just a few days, as they were crossing the Mediterranean to reach the shores of Europe. In the aftermath of these last tragic events, FIDH urges the European Union and its member states to immediately create safe legal migration channels to prevent further such tragedies.

The boat that sank during the week of 8 September in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya resulted in 500 deaths and indicates that the European migration policy is a disaster… as if there weren’t enough proof already! In addition to the ill-founded security systems (as shown by the constant strengthening of the Frontex agency and the creation of surveillance systems such as Eurosur) that ignore or violate the human rights of migrants, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of legal channels of migration. Faced with the extreme difficulty of reaching Europe legally and safely, individuals who choose to emigrate, (often fleeing situations of conflict and persecution), are forced to attempt the Mediterranean crossing on makeshift boats at great risk to their lives, which they have to entrust to unscrupulous smugglers, some of whom may even be murderers. East of Tripoli last Sunday 200 people disappeared when a second boat sank. The situation has become untenable. Recent events show that cosmetic reforms in the migration policy, agreed to by European decision makers in an effort to increase respect for the fundamental rights of migrants, are totally insufficient. Europe must recognise its share of responsibility for these tragedies and thoroughly overhaul its policy, stated Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH.

According to testimonies from two Palestinians who were saved, passengers of the boat carrying 500 people came from Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Sudan. We must continue emphasising that most of the people who die tragically while trying to reach the coast of Europe are refugees. They therefore have the right to international protection and to obtain asylum in Europe. The European Union has a duty to protect them. But it does just the opposite, it does not even permit them to enter its territory. This situation is intolerable, exclaimed Dan Van Raemdonck, FIDH Secretary General.

Considering the very serious crises that are taking place at the door to Europe, the European Union Member States should take in more refugees and establish legal channels that allow the migrants to enter EU territory legally and safely, said Geneviève Jacques, FIDH chargée de mission. The European Union should encourage this policy, in compliance with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, published last June.

In the coming days, FIDH will refer to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, without prejudice to any other actions.

FIDH is a member of the Frontexit campaign whose goal is to denounce the focus of the European migratory policy on border surveillance that flouts migrants’ human rights. FIDH is also providing support to the survivors of the “left-to-die boat” in their quest for justice.

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