Mediterranean migrant boat shipwrecks highlight need for EU action

European leaders must do more to provide safe and legal ways for refugees and migrants to access international protection in the European Union, Amnesty International said today after a boat bound for Italy sank off the coast of Libya leaving many feared drowned. 

“The response of EU member states to the refugee crises in the Middle East and North Africa has been shameful,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director.

“The increasing death toll in the Mediterranean Sea highlights the ineffectiveness of the EU’s current asylum and migration policies and practices.

“European leaders want to prevent people from reaching Europe at any cost, forcing desperate people to take more hazardous routes. 

“European countries have offered a pitiful number of resettlement places to refugees fleeing conflicts, such as the war in Syria. A significant increase in resettlement places would offer a lifeline to refugees and can help reduce the numbers compelled to make this dangerous crossing.

“EU leaders have been unwilling to open safe and legal ways for refugees and migrants to reach Europe, and until they change their stance more lives will continue to be lost at sea.”

The Libyan Navy said 36 people had been rescued after a vessel carrying a reported 250 refugees and migrants went down near Tajoura, east of Tripoli last night. 

Reports indicate that another two boats may have sunk in recent days in the Central Mediterranean, resulting in several hundred drownings.

According to the UNHCR, more than 2,500 people have drowned or gone missing attempting the crossing this year.

The worsening security situation and militia clashes in Libya, the main departure point for Europe, have meant many more refugees and migrants are seeking a way out of the country.

Amnesty International is calling on EU leaders to ensure safe and legal routes to Europe for refugees trying to reach its borders through resettlement, humanitarian admission programmes and facilitation of family reunification.

An Amnesty International report on the perilous sea crossings between Libya and Italy is set to be released later this month.

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