Statement from Refugees International Director for the Americas and Europe Yael Schacher:
“On Wednesday, a vessel carrying as many as 750 people towards Italy from eastern Libya capsized off the coast of Greece, and hundreds of the boat’s passengers from countries such as Afghanistan and Syria—some with relatives waiting for them in Europe—remain missing.
The boat’s distress had been well known by the Greek and Italian authorities long before it capsized, and passengers on board made several appeals for food and water. The interaction between the Greek Coast Guard and the vessel remain in dispute and under investigation, but coast guards in the Mediterranean are increasingly viewed more as facilitators of pushbacks and refoulement and less as facilitators of rescue.
Just as efforts to respond before the boat sank proved inadequate, so too has been the European response in its wake. The EU commissioner has called for cracking down on smugglers, and the Italian president has promised support for Libyan efforts to stop irregular migration. But recent enforcement efforts in eastern Libya may have actually led the people on the boat to rush to sea. Cracking down on smugglers just means harm to migrants, unless there are actually alternative pathways for them to take.
People will continue to die in attempts to reach Europe so long as the EU continues its sole focus on limiting access to asylum and enforcement against smuggling and irregular migration. In recent years, as the EU has worked on its Pact on Migration and Asylum that advanced further this week and paid non-EU authorities to stop migration in the Mediterranean, the number of deaths at sea have increased. The Pact’s mandate of border procedures and expansion of safe third country agreements could only increase pushbacks and the sending of migrants to countries in North Africa where they will face harm.
Refugees International calls on the EU to focus on the creation of significant, safe migration pathways to Europe for those seeking refuge, to unite with family, and for a chance at a better life.”
To schedule an interview, please contact Refugees International’s Vice President for Strategic Outreach Sarah Sheffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image: Demonstrators gather in Thessaloniki on June 15, 2023 following a deadly shipwreck that cost the lives of at least 78 people. (Photo by Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP)