Europe response to Mediterranean migrant and refugee tragedy falls short: Oxfam
Europe’s leaders have just missed a crucial opportunity to make a real difference in the lives and deaths of the people suffering daily in the Mediterranean. Instead of heeding calls to restore immediately a search-and-rescue operation in the Mediterranean on the model of Mare Nostrum – the successful operation it dismantled last year – the EU has chosen to focus on its border control operation.
“There is a moral imperative to save the lives of people in peril – regardless of who they are or where they come from,” said Alessandro Bechini, Director of Oxfam's programs in Italy.
"A truly effective European operation needs to be not only properly funded and equipped, but should also have a clear mandate to save lives as the first priority, and not be shackled by the geographical restrictions that are currently keeping the patrols of the EU’s border control mission, Operation Triton, near the Italian and Maltese coasts," Bechini said.
"Comparing the impact of Operation Triton, as conducted by Frontex, with the previous Mare Nostrum operation is startling. By mid-April there have been 900 confirmed deaths under Triton. There were only 17 in the same period last year under Mare Nostrum,” he said.(1)
”EU member states also have to abide by the Refugee Convention both by the letter and by its spirit. Refugees fleeing persecution need safe and legal avenues for claiming asylum. These are principles to be upheld, not empty statements to be ignored in favor of building a more fortified Europe,” he said.
Oxfam says that poor countries all around the world are shouldering an unfair burden of millions of refugees fleeing from war, insecurity, poverty and inequality. Oxfam does not believe Europe is doing its fair share.
“Today’s decisions from Brussels are totally insufficient to resolve the deadly consequences of the mass movement of desperate people from country to country. We are missing the visionary effort and leadership that is needed to tackle the root causes that drive people away from their homes and push them to face such risks. Oxfam is working with local partners and communities in countries being torn apart by strife and poverty. The international community must step up its peace-building and development efforts in poor and insecure countries – or else the problems associated with mass migration will never be contained, let alone resolved,” Bechini said.
Today’s statement by EU leaders: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2015/04/23-special-euco-statement/
(1) Amnesty International report: https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2015/04/mediterranean-crisis-50-fold-increase-in-deats-amid-european-inaction/
Oxfam media contacts:
In Brussels, Angela Corbalan: + 32 473 56 22 60 or firstname.lastname@example.org, @Angela_Corbalan
In Italy, Maria Teresa Alvino: +39 348 9803541 or email@example.com
In the UK, Ian Bray: +44 7721 461339 or IBray@oxfam.org.uk
For updates, please follow @Oxfam.