Mediterranean crisis: Rising death toll prompts Europe to act

Photo: Members of Amnesty International Netherlands place hundreds of symbolical tombstones in The Hague to represent the soaring death toll of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean. © EPA

The death of upwards of 1,000 refugees and migrants this week alone in the Mediterranean has prompted the European Commission and European foreign and interior ministers to finally acknowledge the need to urgently address search and rescue failures, said Amnesty International today following an announcement at an urgently convened meeting in Luxembourg.

While this marks a positive break from the previous policy of denial and empty rhetoric, the organization warns that the devil will be in the detail. The full scope of the area of operations, the resources and assets made available for search and rescue and by when will be crucial in determining whether lives will be saved.

“Thursday’s emergency summit will be the litmus test for Europe’s commitment to save lives in the Mediterranean. Words must now turn into concrete action specifically in the form of a European multi-nation and robust search and rescue operation,” said Iverna McGowan acting Director, Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

“Finally a sense of urgency has mobilized European governments and EU institutions to act – at least on paper. This can no longer be rhetoric. It is now up to Europe to urgently follow through on their commitments by concretely delivering a comprehensive search and rescue flotilla with accompanying air support operating where needed. This alone will reduce the death-toll,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

Amnesty International will release a briefing Europe’s sinking shame: The failure to save refugees and migrants at sea, at 12.00pm BST on 22 April. 

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Mediterranean crisis: UN points to 50-fold increase in deaths amid European government inaction