11 February 2015
The European Union and its member states must hang their heads in shame following reports this morning that as many as 300 migrants are believed to have died in the high seas off the Italian island of Lampedusa, said Amnesty International.
“This new tragedy realizes our worst fears about the end of Italy’s Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation and exposes the predictable consequences of the European Union’s failure to provide an adequate replacement,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“The humanitarian crisis that sparked the need for Mare Nostrumhas not gone away. With people continuing to flee war and persecution, EU member states must stop burying their heads in the sand whilst hundreds keep dying at sea.”
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of irregular migrants arriving by sea in January 2015 increased by around 60% over the same month last year, when Mare Nostrumwas in place. This makes a mockery of suggestions that the search and rescue operation – whose demise was widely publicized – was encouraging migrants to take this dangerous route.
The EU’s operation Triton, dubbed as a replacement for Mare Nostrum, is not focused on search and rescue, does not routinely operate in international waters, and is significantly reduced in scale.