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Statement on Mass Deaths in the Mediterranean

Hundreds of women, men and children dead or missing in a disaster that was unfortunately, entirely predictable. 

The sinking of a ship off the coast of Greece is another avoidable loss of human life in the Mediterranean. 

While the full details of what happened on Wednesday are still to be clarified, help was not provided to the stricken vessel until it was too late, and current policies in the EU and in Greece have contributed to this situation. Rescue of people in distress at sea, regardless of their nationality or status, is an unconditional obligation for all countries. Trials criminalising humanitarian workers like Irishman Seán Binder have essentially stopped NGO-led search and rescue missions, and EU funding of border patrols and other security infrastructure is leading people to take more dangerous routes to Europe. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has also been proven to repeatedly cover up illegal pushbacks – towing boats of migrants away from EU shores and denying those onboard the right to seek asylum. 

The issue of migration and asylum is not going to go away with a Fortress Europe approach. The impact of climate change is yet to be felt with full force, where hundreds of millions may have to relocate due to coastal submersion, extreme weather and droughts and ensuing resource wars and conflict. 

While the new EU Pact on Migration & Asylum is aiming to create a fairer and more sustainable migration and asylum process for the European Union, many actors are trying to weaken it, for political or other gain. A common Search & Rescue mission should also be pursued in the short and medium term. Finally, the implementation of regulations on the ground is also not always guaranteed, and we must ensure that member states deliver on their commitments.

Humanitarianism and compassion are needed here, and my thoughts go out to the families and individuals affected by this horrendous tragedy.

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