Latest Mediterranean shipwreck underscores urgent need for safe, legal routes to Europe

European governments must do more to provide safe and legal ways for people in need of protection to enter the European Union (EU), rather than risking their lives at sea in their thousands, Amnesty International said as a massive search-and-rescue operation got under way in the central Mediterranean earlier today.

Media reports say hundreds of people are feared lost at sea after a fishing boat, which carried an estimated 600 people, capsized off the Libyan port of Zuwara. According to official sources, 373 people have been rescued and 25 bodies were retrieved. Rescue operations, carried out with the participation of vessels from various countries as well as NGOs Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), are ongoing and will continue overnight.

“People are still crossing the central Mediterranean in their thousands almost every week to seek safety and better lives in Europe, so fatal incidents at sea are going to remain a tragic reality,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

Today’s fatal incident emphasizes how European governments must immediately put in place safe and legal routes for those in need of protection to reduce the numbers of people embarking on perilous sea journeys.
Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International



“Today’s fatal incident emphasizes how European governments must immediately put in place safe and legal routes for those in need of protection to reduce the numbers of people embarking on perilous sea journeys."

It is the first incident of this scale since EU governments agreed to scale up search-and-rescue operations in late April, which curtailed an unprecedented surge in deaths at sea in the early months of 2015.

Amnesty International is calling for increased pledges to resettle refugees, expanded access to Europe through humanitarian visas and family reunification, and an easing of restrictions on freedom of movement of successful asylum seekers.

“While refugees and migrants are continuing to access to Europe through dangerous journeys, it is imperative that efforts to save lives at sea are given top priority. Humanitarian operations launched by European governments in the aftermath of the April shipwrecks, when more than 1,200 people died or disappeared at sea, must continue to be properly resourced and implemented,” said Denis Krivosheev.

While refugees and migrants are continuing to access to Europe through dangerous journeys, it is imperative that efforts to save lives at sea are given top priority. Humanitarian operations launched by European governments in the aftermath of the April shipwrecks, when more than 1,200 people died or disappeared at sea, must continue to be properly resourced and implemented.
Denis Krivosheev



Today’s incident comes a day after the International Organization for Migration announced that 2,000 migrants and asylum-seekers had already perished in the Mediterranean this year. Around 98,000 refugees and migrants crossed the central Mediterranean and arrived to Italy so far this year.

Note: This article originally referred to more than 400 people having been rescued, based on the available information from official sources, including the Irish Navy and Italian Coast Guard, at the time of publication. This has since been revised down to 373 people based on updated information.