NGOs calls on Irish Government to step up action to save lives

Posted On: May 16, 2017

Media Statement, 16 May 2017

More than 20 people are missing and feared dead after another boat attempted to cross the Mediterranean today. This brings the total number of people who have died crossing the Mediterranean this year to over 1,350. The Mediterranean route is now the most dangerous crossing in the world.

Caoimhe Sheridan, Coordinator of the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition* stated ‘Tragedies like this continue to occur due to lack of safe and legal routes to Europe for people in need of international protection. Men, women and children board unseaworthy boats, embarking on very dangerous and life-threatening journeys. These journeys so often end in death and families being torn apart’.

Ms Sheridan continued ‘In addition to the fact that there are virtually no safe and legal paths to safety, EU Search and Rescue missions are now framed as narratives of ‘countering smuggling’ and ‘migration management’ which has become the focus over saving lives. The humanitarian nature of search and rescue is now clearly a secondary aim’.

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said, ‘Ireland needs to do more to ensure safe and legal routes to Ireland. We have committed to relocate and resettle some 4,000 people by the end of 2017, however to date less than one third have actually arrived. Given the record high level of people in need of protection and resettlement, Ireland needs not only to honour its commitments, but also to show leadership and guarantee complimentary legal routes are available to help prevent further deaths at sea’.

ENDS

Notes

*The Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition is comprised of over 20 organisations working in the area of asylum and migration.

  • This was reported by UNHCR, see here for more information http://bit.ly/2qmXVTG
  • While there are various EU initiatives that contribute to saving lives at sea, this is not their primary purposed. For example, EUNAVFOR MED, an EU military operation, contributes significantly to rescues in the central Mediterranean; Operation Triton of the EU borders agency Frontex also contributes to search and rescue efforts, but primarily patrols the area near Italy’s southern sea borders. Furthermore, the recently adopted European Border and Coast Guard, defines its role to “assist Member States in circumstances requiring increased technical and operational assistance at the external borders by coordinating and organising joint operations, taking into account that some situations may involve humanitarian emergencies and rescue at sea”.
  • The Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition have called on the Irish Government to ensure there are more legal routes available so that people in need of protection can access the EU without having to undertake treacherous journeys. These channels include humanitarian visa and admission programmes, increased resettlement numbers and broader family reunification opportunities. Ireland also needs to honour its commitments under the current EU relocation scheme.