Deaths in the Mediterranean: the EU has no alternative

Paris, 20 April 2015 - During the early hours of 19 April, a trawler that had left Libya for Europe with over 700 people on board, capsized. Only a few dozen people were saved and several bodies recovered. As rescue operations were underway, a boat carrying over 300 people sent out a distress alert. As long as the European Union fails to change radically its migration policy, there will be more and more dead bodies piling up at its borders.

FIDH denounces the criminal migration policy that has been pursued for too long by the European Union and its Member States. Despite its dramatic effects on human lives, the policy has been further strengthened in recent years with the creation of the Frontex Agency for the surveillance of the EU’s external borders and the introduction of the Eurosur data sharing system. The colossal funds spent each year on the surveillance of European borders reflect the inward-looking security driven approach of the EU and its Members States. The refusal to support the Italian Mare Nostrum rescue operation, which in 2014 saved over 150,000 people, and the launch of the Frontex surveillance operation Triton, represent the stubborn continuation of this irresponsible policy: protecting the EU against an imaginary threat, at the expense of human lives.

The obsession with border control has turned Europe into a fortress, causing large scale human tragedies. The citizens of Europe must understand that these tragedies are not unavoidable accidents, but the result of deliberate policies adopted by their governments declared Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH Vice-president.

FIDH urges EU Member States to create alternative safe paths for people to seek protection in the EU. Under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights (article 18), migrants meeting the criteria for obtaining refugee status, i.e. who have been persecuted or who have reason to fear persecution in their own country, are entitled to international protection. The Syrians, the Eritreans, the Sudanese… are refugees, and the European States have an obligation to grant them protection. These persons must be able to claim their rights without risking their lives, recalled Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

We call on Member States to facilitate the granting of humanitarian and asylum visas and establish other legal routes, as recommended recently by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.

To respond to the immediate deadly effects of past policy, EU Member States must urgently establish a European search and rescue operation, on the basis of the Italian Mare Nostrum operation.

FIDH is a member of the Frontexit campaign, which aims to inform public opinion and EU political representatives of the impact of Frontex operations on human rights.

Read the reactions of FIDH and its partners to the October 2013, September 2014 and April 2015 shipwrecks off the coast of Lampedusa.

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