The crisis in the Mediterranean is and must be seen as a humanitarian one. Fundamentally, everyone who is in trouble at sea must be rescued according to existing international law. The decision to save someone’s life at sea should never be determined by their nationality, visa or immigration status.
Therefore, Migrant Voice believes that re-establishing a functional search and rescue operation is a moral obligation at Europe’s front door.
It is beyond reason to claim that people fleeing war such as the one in Syria, come to Europe because they know there is a rescue boat, and that if there isn’t a rescue boat they will not come. Rescuing people at sea is not a pull factor. Our members tell us that they know the risk and they are prepared to take it as it is their only option – there is no alternative.
Looking at the countries of origins for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, such as Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, it is very clear that those embarking on the dangerous journey are people fleeing war, conflicts and persecution. European countries are signatories of the United Nation’s Convention on the protection of refugees 1951, therefore under legal obligation to offer protection, and individuals are legally entitled to leave their countries and seek sanctuary.
It is very worrying not to hear the UN Convention mentioned by politicians while responding to the recent crisis, but rather focusing on strengthening the borders, combating trafficking and sending people back to countries with dubious human rights records.
Destroying the boats is not the answer; providing legal routes is the only way to put unscrupulous traffickers out of business.
Re-establishing functional search and rescue and providing legal routes should form the immediate response and action for both the UK and the EU. A longer term plan to bring the international community together to address wars, conflicts, extreme poverty and issues forcing people to flee their countries, should follow. Europe can no longer ignore troubles in neighbouring countries and continents.
This is a European wide issue. We need a greater European solidarity to better share the responsibility for the immediate rescuing and supporting of the migrants on Europe’s doorstep.
This issue is not about economics and what benefits those people might or might not bring to Europe; this is about human beings in distress and we as human beings responding to fellow human beings in distress.