Mediterranean crisis: Visit by UN, EU representatives must spur migration policy overhaul

Amnesty International spokespeople have just returned from Sicily and Lampedusa

Today’s “solidarity” voyage by high-ranking United Nations and European Union (EU) officials on an Italian Navy vessel off the coast of Sicily must prompt EU governments to expand Operation Triton’s operational area and overhaul migration and asylum policy to stem the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in the Mediterranean, Amnesty International said.

An Amnesty International delegation returned yesterday from Sicily and Lampedusa, where it gathered harrowing testimonies from survivors of recent shipwrecks and met local officials who expressed outrage at European leaders’ limited approach to search-and-rescue operations.

Talking points:

  • Amnesty International witnessed the disembarkation over the weekend of more than 300 migrants from an Italian Navy vessel in the Sicilian port of Augusta.
  • Amnesty International has been granted direct access to survivors of recent shipwrecks and search-and-rescue operations.
  • The organization gathered compelling testimony from newly arrived survivors, both in Lampedusa and Augusta.
  • It is feared that around 1,700 lives have been lost already in the Mediterranean this year – 100 times more than the same period in 2014.
  • Despite European Union and member states’ commitments last Thursday to provide more funding and assets to Operation Triton, questions remain over its operational area. As long as Triton does not cover the operational area of the former Italian Operation Mare Nostrum, closer to where most shipwrecks occur, further lives will be lost.

Notes to editors:On Monday 27 April, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, will join Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on board the Italian Navy ship San Giusto off the coast of Sicily. According to a European Commission statement, the aim of the visit will be “to assess the situation and help ensure European solidarity for the efforts undertaken to save the lives of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.”

Amnesty International has just published a briefing, Europe’s sinking shame: The failure to save refugees and migrants at sea, calling on European governments to take immediate and effective steps to end an ongoing catastrophe that has left thousands of refugees and migrants dead.