This year alone, at least 1800 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. This is a humanitarian catastrophe, and the EU must take its responsibility and make search and rescue operations a priority.
There is no evidence for the ridiculous idea that rescue operations provide a ‘pull factor’ for people to attempt the crossing. On the contrary, in the first three months after the Italian search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum was discontinued, the flow of migrants increased by 160%.
Even after the disaster in April that claimed at least 800 lives, the EU has protecting borders as its main objective in the Mediterranean, not saving lives. Amnesty International described the EU’s response the the disaster as “woefully inadequate and shameful”.
During the last 20 years, the EU has spent vast quantities of money on securing its land borders and it has become virtually impossible to seek asylum in embassies. This has led to more people choosing dangerous sea routes, and the southern border of Europe has become the deadliest in the world. But if you are fleeing violence and destitution, you will take your chances with the sea.
Cracking down on the smugglers will not solve this problem. People board these boats voluntarily, out of desperation, and will continue to try to do so – if there is no way back, you have to go forward. If there were legal routes into Europe, there would be no business for the smugglers.
Trapping people on the threshold of Europe is not a solution. Building walls against migrants denies refugees their right to seek protection. Our policies are creating a death trap for innocent people.
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