There is an enormous displacement crisis right in Europe’s neighbourhood. There needs to be a European-wide protection response to the recent tragedies which have claimed so many lives of migrants and refugees fleeing war, persecution and violence. This response should be based on the fundamental European values of human rights, human dignity, solidarity, and respect for human life. Without this, such tragedies will continue unabated.
UNHCR welcomes that the European Union and its Member States will take urgent action to address continued boat movements and the tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean. The 10 Point Action Plan on Migration proposed by the EU Joint Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs Council on 20 April is an important step in this regard, but needs to be accompanied by additional measures, in line with UNHCR proposals to Member States made within the framework of UNHCR’s Central Mediterranean Sea Initiative and its action plan2 .
UNHCR urges the leaders of the European Union, meeting this Thursday 23 April 2015, to translate their announced commitments to immediate action.
Rescue at Sea
UNHCR welcomes that the first point in the 10 Point Action Plan includes a commitment to reinforcing the Frontex Joint Sea Operations – Triton and Poseidon – and extending their operational area. UNHCR hopes that the increase in assets will be substantial enough to amount to the robust search and rescue operation similar in capacity and scope to the previous Mare Nostrum operation. Search and rescue must be the top priority for these Frontex operations.
There is no empirical evidence that search and rescue operations constitute a ‘pull-factor’ The numbers of arrivals in 2015 to date are considerably higher than for the same period in 2014, when the Mare Nostrum operation was in full swing.